Eric_W's Reviews > Firehouse

Firehouse by David Halberstam
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Jul 11, 2009

really liked it
Read in July, 2009

I love Halberstam's books and usually make an effort to read them as soon as they come out. His tragic death last year hit hard. This book I postponed reading until recently. I suppose the events of 9/11 needed to be viewed through the distance of time. Even with that lens, it was often difficult to forge on.

The Engine 40, Ladder 35 firehouse was close to where Halberstam lived in New York. Twelve of thirteen who left for the Twin Towers on that day were killed. Halberstam recounts what happened to the men (as best as one can tell) and their families. His book reinforces again how small random decisions often make the difference between life and death. One fireman had worked with a saw on helping a man with bicycle lock for which he had lost the key. During the use of the saw, it had slipped and cut the hand of a fellow firefighter. Because of that injury he wasn't on duty on 9/11. Everyone else was killed. Another man in a different company had a doctor's appointment. He was off duty. Or the story of some firefighters from a different firehouse who exited out of the North tower minutes before it collapsed. Some turned to the north, others to the south and west. Only those who turned north survived.

The impact on the families was huge, perhaps especially on the children who not only lost fathers, but often uncles and friends of the family as well since the firemen had particularly close relationships with other firefighters. Listening to the platitudes of politicians was particularly galling to many of the survivors with their pat encomiums.

These sketchy biographies are hagiographic. If you are looking for an expose or sordid details of one man's divorce or affair or whatever, you won't find it. And that's as it should be
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Edmund Davis-Quinn It's well done.


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