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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; Reprint edition (31 Mar. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786888512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786888511
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 264,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

"If you have tears, prepare to shed them."-Frank McCourt

The New York Times bestseller, now with an introduction by Denis Leary.

About the Author

David Halberstam was one of America's most distinguished journalists and historians. After graduating from Harvard in 1955, he covered the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, then was sent overseas by the New York Times to report on the war in Vietnam. The author of fifteen bestsellers, including The Best and the Brightest, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam reporting at the age of thirty. He was killed in a car accident on April 23, 2007, while on his way to an interview for what was to be his next book.

Denis Leary has appeared in more than thirty films, including the Oscar-nominated Wag the Dog, The Thomas Crowne Affair, and Ice Age, as well as the Christmas cult classic The Ref, and such indie favorites as Jesus' Son and Suicide Kings. Leary was the co-creator, producer, and star of the critically acclaimed network comedy The Job. His one-man shows No Cure for Cancer and Lock 'n Load broke viewing records on HBO. Leary has also written for New York magazine, GQ, Playboy, Esquire, and many other publications. He was the co-writer, creator, and star of the four-time Emmy and Golden Globe nominated television series Rescue Me.


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First Sentence
The Upper West Side of Manhattan, just above Columbus Circle, was until quite recently a relatively poor neighborhood, and some of the veteran firemen at Engine 40, Ladder 35, located at Sixty-sixth Street and Amsterdam Avenue, like to recall how Amsterdam was once the dividing line between an Irish neighborhood to the east and a black neighborhood, just to the west. Read the first page
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 July 2002
Format: Audio CD
Actor/director/writer Mel Foster gives an appropriately subdued and reverential reading of the story of Engine 40, Ladder 35 and the firemen who lost their lives on a day America will never forget - September 11, 2001.
As Frank McCourt commented, "If you have tears, prepare to shed them." I would add you may have difficulty stopping those tears.
In this particular firehouse, which was dealt the most severe blows following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers, as in other firehouses the men live, work and eat together. Halberstam writes: "....they play sports together, go off to drink together, help repair one another's houses andmost importantly, share terrifying risks; their loyalties to each other must, by the demands of the dangers they face, be instinctive and absolute."
Few could have dreamed of the danger in store. On that terrible morning two rigs carrying a total of 26 men left the firehouse; only 14 men would return.
We are with the families as they wait for news of their loved ones and, in part, come to understand why men undertake such a perilous profession.
"Firehouse" is history, a moving narrative of an earth shattering day.

- Gail Cooke
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Katie Cauthen Francisco on 12 Feb. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Halberstam, known well for his books about history, has written a little book about 9/11 that will hopefully remain long after most of the other 9/11 novels are ancient history. This novel tells the story of Engine 40, Ladder 35 in Midtown Manhattan, a firehouse that lost 12 of 13 men who went to the World Trade Center.
Each fireman is described - what role he had in the firehouse and how he came to be a fireman. The story of the 13th fireman, Kevin Shea, the one who lived, is also told. Some have criticized this story because it leaves out any negatives, character flaws, etc. that these men had. I dispute this as one in particular is characterized as a "human cactus". And why, I ask, should we want to learn the things people disliked about the men who died? They did die as heroes, even though this book illustrates that heroes is probably the last thing that any of these men would have wanted to be called. They were just doing their jobs.
The book also goes into some detail about the families of these men and how they reacted after the tragedy when they came to realize that their husband/son/father would not be coming home.
Out of all the books written about September 11th, this is one that deserves to stand the test of time. It wasn't written in a hurry so that it would sell tons of copies and make lots of money - instead it was published in May 2002, long after many books had been out and the publishing craze seemed to be over. It also serves as a reminder of what happened that day. Eventually, 9/11/01 will be just another date, hard as it seems to believe right now. Eventually it will be like 12/7/41 and children will learn of it, but not fully understand and appreciate the tragedy that occurred that day. If this book is still around, I will recommend it be read by everyone who doesn't remember that day, so they can understand that lives were lost that day - lives of real people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Sept. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
On 9/11 343 members of the NY fire department were killed. Among them, and one of the hardest hit, were Engine Company 40, Ladder Company 35. That morning thirteen men set out and only one was found alive after the collapse of the towers. The author does a wonderful job of celebrating the lives of those brave men - telling us who they were and what their job meant to them. So much, on that day, was chance. Bob Menig, for example, left the firehouse at 8:30am to make a doctor's appointment and was driving on the freeway when he heard that a plane had hit the tower. Some others were on a golfing trip. Sadly, some members were nearing retirement and eager to make up as many hours as possible in their last year of work, in a job that was generally poorly paid and meant many of the men had second jobs. Still, it is clear that these men did not do this job for the monetary rewards. They were part of the fire service because they thought it was a job worth doing. Some enjoyed the camaradarie, some the feeling of family, others the support of the community or the simple satisfaction of helping others.

This book describes what happened on that day and how their families waited for news. At first the news was confusing - it was believed the trucks had left after the collapse of the towers, so it was thought the men were not in danger. Only as it transpired that the men had left earlier than first believed, did the hope die. These men walked into a situation where they knew they might lose their lives; they knew the risks they face and were selfless and overwhelmingly brave. We should all be proud of our emergency services and the outstanding job they do every day and this book is one I am glad I read. Many people died that day, but others lived because of the bravery of the fire department and this is a testament to some of those men.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 May 2002
Format: Hardcover
This beautiful little volume of less than 200 pages paints a moving portrait of one firehouse on one fateful day last year: September 11, 2001. David Halberstam, one of America's finest non-fiction writers, draws the reader into a very special culture populated by very special, yet ordinary, "guys" - 12 of whom gave their lives trying to save others. You learn a great deal about the individual men, about the firehouse culture - in many instances, a culture passed on from generation to generation of firefighter - and you learn a great deal about yourself. Halberstam's poignant book brings back all the horror of September 11th, but it leaves you feeling not drained, but uplifted. You will want to give this book as a gift so buy several copies!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 69 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Giving Thanks for Those Who Give All 21 Jun. 2002
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I would guess that I am not the only one guilty of taking firemen for granted before September 11. Sure, I knew that in between relaxing at the firehouse, they got to go out and have some excitement, and that they did good work, and it was all commendable in a very manly way. But with all the losses to the New York Fire Department (343 killed), and the vigil over the site of the World Trade Center as their bodies were finally unearthed, and the heartfelt mourning of their brothers at one funeral after another, my admiration for fireman has increased to something around the level it had when I was a kid and like all kids I wanted to be a fireman. David Halberstam lives on the West Side of Manhattan, and had a distant admiration "for firemen, for their courage, for the highly professional and immensely good-natured way they go about their jobs, and for the fact that they constantly have to deal with terrifying fires in the high-rises that surround us." He had, before September 11, never been in his neighborhood Engine 40, Ladder 35 Firehouse. The firehouse lost twelve of the thirteen men sent on the engine and ladder to the World Trade Center, and Halberstam, in _Firehouse_ (Hyperion) tells us of their lives and work. It is a small, graceful, moving, eye-opening homage to firemen and their values.
The values are a family matter. Not only are the members of a firehouse family to themselves, for they literally depend on each other for their lives. Significantly, however, firefighting runs in families. Some of the men lost that dreadful day were third generation firemen who, sometimes against the advice of their fathers, never wanted to be anything but firemen. Halberstam tells a good deal about the inner life of the firehouse, such things as the tension felt on both sides as a new firemen on a probationary period (a "probie") is assigned to the station, the refusal of some firefighters to take the steps that would make them officers, the deliberate distance and respect between officers and men. Among the stories here are many of firemen who had swapped shifts or just went off shift so that they were not among the ones to answer the first call. Halberstam gives brief biographical portrayals of all twelve men, the one who was an expert at putting up wallpaper and did it for the homes of all the others, the one who was a former auto mechanic who kept all their private vehicles running smoothly, the golfers, the cooks, the one who had just shown up for his first workday at the firehouse, suiting up among strangers for the run five minutes later.
Halberstam writes quietly, with admiration and even awe, but he describes his tale as one about "the nobility of ordinary people." He says that there "are very few stories that I have written in my 50 years as journalist that have been so personally rewarding," and the story shines because unlike his previous books on Vietnam, the American press, or professional sports endeavors, this is one on heroes in a profession anyone can unabashedly admire. "Even with elite combat units, when a soldier runs across a field of fire to carry off a wounded buddy, he is doing it for a pal;... [firefighters] perform acts of exceptional courage to save complete strangers." They were doing it before September 11, and they do it still, but we have more reason to be grateful, and less to take them for granted.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Halberstam: The Best and Brightest Writer 27 May 2002
By H. F. Corbin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has read David Halberstam knows he is a fine journalist. He certainly does not disappoint in this small memorial of some of the brave men who lost their lives on 9/11, the day of infamy. FIREHOUSE is the account of the thirteen firefighters of Engine 40, Ladder 35 who answered the emergency call to go to the World Trade Towers. Of the thirteen who left on the mission, only one returned.
Inside the front and back panels of the book is a reproduction of the actual list of firemen who were posted to answer the call on 9/11; their photographs are printed on the back cover. These become a makeshift memorial to these men not unlike the Vietnam Wall or the AIDS Quilt. I found myself looking back at their names and photographs as Halberstam introduces each of the thirteen.
These men's bios are sketchy as are the actual facts of what they faced on 9/11. They were overwhelmingly white, most of them married or about to be, many of them the sons or brothers or cousins of other New York firefighters. An interesting tidbit: most of these men were fine cooks as well.
There is hardly a negative statement about any of these men, a fact that shouldn't surprise anyone since Halberstam interviewed surviving relatives and colleagues shortly after 9/11. It is human nature to remember only the good of loved ones so recently after a tragedy. I did learn, however, that Jimmy Giberson, described as a natural leader, was separated from his wife. Certainly I, a complete stranger, do not need more details of his failed marriage. I'm much rather learn that in a video shot by a contract cameraman on 9/11 Giberson is identified as the man going into the south tower ahead of the captain, an unusual fact that at first puzzled the remaining firemen. But a close friend resonded: "Jimmy was always in front. Always. With those long legs, you couldn't keep up with him. And no one was going to stop him on something like this." We can reserve expose journalism for another day and another subject.
There are poignant facts: the fireman who would have been on that truck had he not had a medical appointment, the friend who filled in for him. Especially sad are the brand new firemen fresh out of school, one of whom had never gone to a fire before. There is finally the accounts of the memorial services, often two: one before the body is found, the other after, sometimes months afterwards when the body has been identified. The body of one of these twelve men, Steve Mercado, had not been found when Halberstam wrote this book.
I was so glad to see that Mr. Halberstam, no stranger to tragedy in his own life, did not take the view, so often taken by glib journalists, that the surviving friends and family of these brave men achieved "closure" by simply attending a service or identifying a body. Here is Halberstam's description of Jack Lynch, the father of Michael Lynch: "In the meantime, Jack Lynch understod that there was a void in his and his wife's lives, and in the lives of all their children, and that nothing else would be quite the same, that a part of them was missing. There would always be a part of them all that was missing.
The tragedy, he said, was the only thing in all his life that had truly challenged his faith."
Apparently these men were just ordinary men doing what firemen routinely do: answering emergency calls that put them in harm's way. This sparse account of their walking into the south tower will break your heart.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A LITTLE BOOK WITH BIG HEART! 25 May 2002
By MJR reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I met and spoke with David Halberstam at the L.A. Times Book Fair and he said this would be his next work and he was happy of the effort the publisher had made to get this book to print. And we, as readers, should be happy too that this book is now available.
There will be volumes written about the events of 9/11, what makes this book special is that it gives us insight into the character of the men who gave their lives that tragic day. Of the 13 men who left the firehouse on 9/11, only one would survive. Halberstam makes no mystery of who dies, all you have to do is look at the back cover to see the pictures of the twelve men who passed away when the World Trade Center towers came down. What Halberstam does do is make us have a feel for who these brave men were, as well as their families and friends who most now go on without them.
As always with Halberstam this is is very well written book.
This book is almost a coda, another chapter, of his latest major work, "War in a Time of Peace" which was published just weeks before 9/11 and mentions on the last page that the new threat to the United States will not come from some super-power or established nation but rather from terrorists and extremists.
To understand the loss we as a country truly paid on that tragic day read this book.
This is a touching book and slim though it is it is very special. It will touch your heart.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Great tribute 24 May 2002
By Mike - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Firehouse is a wonderful moving tribute to 13 of the firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Of the 13 who responded that day, only 1 survived, and this is the story of their lives.
Writing about the fire service can be a difficult thing, especially for those who have no connection to firefighters or the culture. Here, David Halberstam has been able to get the feeling of one of New York's fire stations, in this case Engine 40 and Ladder 35, and bring the outside world into this little seen world where few ever enter. The only other book I have read which even comes to getting the sense of what it is like in the fire station was with Dennis Smith's "Report from Engine Company 82", and Mr. Smith was a firefighter to boot. I certainly tip my helmet to Mr. Halberstam for getting it right. If you have been a firefighter for 1 day or 30 years, or someone who just wants to read a great book which offers incredible insight into the FDNY and fire service at large, then buy "Firehouse".
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Uncommon Courage By Ordinary People 15 July 2002
By Mark F. Weber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Engine 40/Ladder 35 leave their firehouse, near Lincoln Center, the morning of September 11th. 13 brave men head for the World Trade Center. Only one shattered survivor returns. "Firehouse" by David Halberstam is a short and emotional journey into the lives, families, culture and backdrop of this tragic event. The author effectively blends the events of the 11th with personal glimpses of each victim. What is most interesting is the perspectives of their families and their colleagues from the firehouse that were not on call that terrible day. The reader gets a sense of the extreme emotions of pride, anger, sorrow, guilt and loss by those remaining in this terrible void.
David Halberstam is a gifted reporter and writer who uses simple prose to effectively describe a complex and horrible situation. Hundreds of fireman were among the thousands lost at the WTC. By personalizing this small team, Halberstram enables us to better appreciate all of the heroes and victims of the attack. His best description about them is ". . . acts of uncommon courage by ordinary people."
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