The first to die on 9/11


LEWINA commando who became a computer scientist is likely to have been the first person killed on 9/11.

We know about the brave Americans who fought terrorists on Flight 93, but you probably haven’t heard of the act of heroism on Flight 11, writes Molly Knight Raskin in No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet.

American Airlines Flight 11 took off from Boston on a nonstop for L.A. It would be the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.

When terrorists with box cutters and knives started to take over the plane, Lewin, an Israeli-American who had served in an elite counterterrorism unit in Israel, “rose from his seat and engaged in a struggle with one of the terrorists to try to thwart the hijacking,” Raskin writes. The 31-year-old’s throat was slashed and he was killed.

Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower at 8:46.

“He was the first victim of the first war of the 21st century,” says Marco Greenberg, Lewin’s best friend.

But Lewin, a math wiz who wrote a set of algorithms to make the Internet faster, would triumph that day. As cellphones failed and people became hungry to know whether loved ones were OK or wanted the latest news, the Internet didn’t jam. Technology pioneered by Lewin worked, and became critical for news and government sites and contacting relatives by email.

You can read an excerpt of Raskin’s book on Slate.