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article imageThe untold story of an Internet pioneer and 9/11's first victim

By Eric Morales     Sep 12, 2013 in Technology
A new biography reveals the stunning life of a technology trailblazer who would ultimately give his life trying to stop the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Danny Lewin boarded a plane at Boston's Logan International Airport, his destination was Los Angeles to attend a business meeting for Akami Technologies, a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He would never make it. Little did the former Captain in Israel's elite Sayeret Matkal know he was about to become the first casualty in America's War on Terror.
Lewin died on Sept. 11, 2001, aboard Flight 11 and according to a new biography the American-Israeli father of two died trying to stop the terror that would unfold that fateful Tuesday and change the world forever.
Molly Knight Raskin writes in No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet that Lewin, born in the United States and raised in Israel appears to have immediately understood what the hijackers aboard Flight 11 were about to do. Fluent in Arabic, the 31-year-old graduate of MIT leaped into action tackling a hijacker, however his throat was slit by Al Qaeda terrorist Satam Al Suqami who was seated directly behind him. Thirty minutes after Danny Lewin was murdered, Flight 11 would crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Author Molly Knight Raskin was able to piece together Lewin's final moments using the last words of two flight attendants who made desperate phone calls aboard the doomed plane.
"It was about the way he lived. I felt like if he was motivating me as much, I felt like I could do the same for readers," Molly told CNN.
Since 2001 the Internet has grown by leaps and bounds, in part thanks to technology created by Lewin himself.
A student at MIT in Boston Danny Lewin wanted to help solve the problem of web congestion, according to Raskin's biography. Together with his Professor Tom Leighton and others Lewin used mathematics and algorithms to find a way to handle the dynamic routing of content online.
In 1998 Akami Technologies was founded, today whenever a user goes on the websites for Bing, Facebook, Twitter, or Yahoo they are redirected to a copy of the website on an Akami server. All of this is done unbeknownst to the user, as of today the company's total revenue is over a billion dollars and is responsible for 30 percent of the world's Internet traffic.
Danny Lewin was made a billionaire overnight, his professor Tom Leighton attributes the success of Akami, which means "intelligent" in Hawaiian, to Lewin's brilliance.
"He was really exceptionally smart. MIT has a lot of really smart people, and Danny stood out even among that rarified environment. He liked working on the hardest problems, as opposed to the easier ones, because they would make more of a difference," Professor Leighton who is now the CEO of Akami Technologies said, "With this work, we thought it would have relevance in the real world, and make the Internet be faster, more reliable, more secure. It was a chance that was pretty rare for us."
Had he lived it is beyond any doubt that Danny Lewin would have been ranked in the league of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates among pioneers of technology.
At the National 9/11 Memorial, Lewin is memorialized at the North Pool, on Panel N-75. He is survived by his wife Anne, and two sons Eitan and Itamar.
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