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 Forgetby Michael Benfante, Dave Hollander
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Michael Benfante went to work, just like he had day after day, at his office on 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.
Benfante’s memoir, Reluctant Hero, is a humbling and courageous one, detailing the struggle of an ordinary man who was forced to find strength he had only read about in books.
- Skyhorse Publishing
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Meet the Author
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 U.S. Senatorial special hearing about his 9/11 experience. Benfante is a 1987 Brown University graduate. He currently lives with his wife and his son in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Dave Hollander is an author and columnist writing on sports and social issues in national publications including The Huffington Post, AOL Sports, SI.com, and Interview. Hollander serves on the faculty for the New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management. Hollander lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.
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I highly recommend this book. Beautiful story, beautifully written, much to learn from Mr. Benfante's experience.
A compelling personal journey told by someone literally standing feet below where the plane hit on 9/11. A book you can’t put down and written in a style that brings you inside the author. No one could have planned their reaction to the tragic and heroic acts of that day. A lifetime had prepared Michael to be a leader and to consider his fellow man during challenging times. Nothing could have prepared him for the personal highs and lows that followed those first few hours. Michael’s story can offer great healing for those changed by the events of September 11th. Watching Michael struggle with the changing circumstances around him, reminds us no one suffers alone. From Michaels unique viewpoint he offers a vision of who we were, who we too often are, and finally the people we must become. Reading this book will leave you feeling privileged to share the life changing moments of one of the true hero’s of that historic day.
The church library where I work recently had the opportunity to host Michael Benfante as a speaker. Many members of the congregation read the book before he came to town, and virtually everyone tore through it in one or two days. All those who came to return their copy to the library walked in open-mouthed, saying the same thing: "Wow." We own 25 copies of the book, and haven't been able to keep them on the shelves. The first part of the book lays out Benfante's journey through hell on 9/11 in such unflinching detail that the experience felt immediate -- so much so that my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. That being said, the real story follows what happens to Michael after the 9/11 media storm dies down. As a reader, this part of the book was equally gripping as Michael struggles through frustration, self-annihilation, anger and despair described in his down-to-earth, take-no-prisoners voice. I won't give anything away here, but Michael goes down a heartbreaking, dark path that has you pleading with him to return to the confident, charismatic, successful guy he was before 9/11, wrapping up the whole thing in a pretty bow at the end. But life is not a Hallmark card; his eventual redemption, still a work in progress, lies in a simple yet powerful message he discovers in one small, beautiful moment with his young son. Michael's hour-long presentation at my church left his audience transformed -- a powerful word, but the only way to adequately describe his influence. People stayed behind long after Benfante departed simply to discuss with each other how affected they were by his story and his not-preachy-but-nonetheless-spiritual message. He states that writing this book was simply meant to be a cathartic exercise for him; he seems genuinely surprised by a generally-cynical public's positive embrace. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
A gentle reminder of we should never forget 9/11. He tells us to take care of each other.
Mr Benfante, ( ) this is me hugging you. Thank you for this book. It held me in its grip from the first word. It is still holding.
This is a beautifully written book. Benfante's story is amazing but the overall message is so important here. I hope people buy this week!
This gritty, soul-searching memoir written by Michael Belfante should be read by everyone wanting to try to understand how life's events influence our lives . My sincere gratitude to Mr. Belfante for sharing with us his experiences, reactions, and feelings about September 11, 2001, when America was attacked by terrorists.
God bless all the innocent people, firefighters, and paramedics whe died during the horrible tradgey of 9-11 may they rest in peace