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Paperback Firehouse Book

ISBN: 0786888512

ISBN13: 9780786888511


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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

irehouse is a book that will move readers as few others have in our time. Through the kind of intimate portraits that are Halberstam's trademark, we watch a typical day in a firehouse unfold-the men called to duty, while their families wait anxiously for news of them. In addition, we come to understand the culture of the firehouse itself; why gifted men do this and why in so many instances they are eager to follow in their father's footsteps and serve...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Uncommon Courage By Ordinary People

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."

Giving Thanks for Those Who Give All

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 hero

Halberstam: The Best and Brightest Writer

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 the


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.

Great tribute

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".
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