Book Reviews

Reluctant Hero: A 9/11 Survivor Speaks Out by Michael Benfante | Book Review

Reluctant Hero: A 9/11 Survivor Speaks Out by Michael Benfante | Book Review Reluctant Hero: A 9/11 Survivor Speaks Out by Michael Benfante
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Original Publication Date: 2011
Source: Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher.
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Find the Author: Website, Goodreads, Amazon
three-half-stars

Reluctant Hero. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Michael Benfante went to work, just like he had day after day, at his office on the eighty-first floor in the World Trade Center North Tower. Moments after the first plane struck, just twelve floors above him, Benfante organized his terrified employees, getting them out the office and moving down the stairwells. On his way down, he and another co-worker encountered a woman in a wheelchair on the sixty-eighth floor. Benfante, the woman, and Benfante’s co-worker then embarked on a ninety-six-minute odyssey of escape—the two men carrying the woman down sixty-eight flights of stairs out of the North Tower and into an ambulance that rushed her to safety just minutes before the tower imploded. A CBS video camera caught Benfante just as he got out the building, and almost immediately, the national media came calling. Benfante sat on the couch with Oprah Winfrey, where she hailed him as a hero. Almost one year to the day after 9/11, Benfante got married and the woman in the wheelchair sat in the front row. That’s the storybook ending. But in the aftermath of 9/11, Benfante began a journey fraught with wrenching personal challenges of critical emotional and psychological depth in Reluctant Hero. Benfante shares the trappings of his public heroism, the loneliness of his private anguish, and the hope he finds for himself and for us. Because all of us—whether we were in the towers, in New York City, or someplace else—we are all 9/11 survivors.

Michael Benfante Worked at the World Trade Center

On September 11, 2001, Michael Benfante reported to his job as a manager at a telecommunications firm on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center. When the planes crashed into the building, Benfante and his co-workers started working their way down the stairs.

When they reached the 68th floor Benfante and one of his co-workers encountered a woman in a wheelchair. There were female co-workers staying with her but it was impossible for them to carry her down 68 floors. Benfante and his co-worker carried the woman down to the bottom and out of the building.

Reluctant Hero: A 9/11 Survivor Speaks Out About That Unthinkable Day, What He’s Learned, How He’s Struggled, and What No One Should Ever Forget is Benfante’s account of not only what happened to him on that tragic day, but what happened to him in the ten years since September 11th, 2001.

Benfante Became A Reluctant Hero

Benfante became a celebrity for his actions on September 11th; he was showered with awards, feted on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and mentioned in a speech by the President of the United States.

Almost one year to the day Benfante got married. The woman in the wheelchair was a guest at his wedding.

But while all this was going on, Benfante was grappling with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He refused to go get therapy and kept his feelings inside. He resorted to alcohol and other ways to keep his demons at bay.

Final Analysis

This book is gripping. I really felt as if I was on a journey with him down the stairs of the World Trade Center.

I was shocked when I realized that even after they got out of the building, he was almost killed by the tower collapsing.

Benfante has written this book as a kind of catharsis to finally come to grips with what happened on that day. The book is touching and he is unflinching as he admits that he hasn’t always handled things very well.

Remembering 9/11 With Michael Benfante

Update 2022

In the aftermath of September 11th, Benfante and the woman he helped to save, Tina Hansen, have remained friends:

If you appreciated this review, you can also read about How The Good Guys Finally Won by Jimmy Breslin.

You may also read my post from my other blog: Reluctant Hero From New Jersey.

Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!

About Michael Benfante

Michael Benfante became a national hero for his actions on September 11, 2001, when he and a co-worker carried a disabled woman in a wheelchair down sixty-eight flights of stairs and out of the World Trade Center North Tower to safety, just minutes before the tower imploded. He is the recipient of a host of honors and international recognition, and has testified at a US Senatorial special hearing about his 9/11 experience. Benfante is a 1987 Brown University graduate.

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