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Firehouse [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio Cassette]

David Halberstam , Mel Foster
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 29 2002
"In the firehouse the men not only live and eat with each other, they play sports together, go off to drink together, help repair one another's houses and, most importantly, share terrifying risks; their loyalties to each other must, by the demands of the dangers they face, be instinctive and absolute." So writes David Halberstam, one of America's most distinguished reporters and historians in this stunning book about Engine 40, Ladder 35 - one of the firehouses hardest hit in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers. On the morning of September 11, 2001, two rigs carrying 13 men set out from this firehouse, located on the west side of Manhattan near Lincoln Center; twelve of the men would never return. Firehouse takes us to the very epicenter of the tragedy. We watch the day 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 anxious to follow in their fathers' footsteps and serve in so dangerous a profession - why more than anything else, it is not just a job, but a calling as well. Firehouse is journalism-as-history at its best. The story of what happens when one small institution gets caught in apocalyptic day, it is a book that will move readers as few others have in our time.

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From Amazon

Thirteen men from Engine 40, Ladder 35 firehouse initially responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; only one survived. Located near Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the firehouse was known for its rich tradition and strong leadership. This gripping book details the actions of the 13 men on that horrific day and the heartbreaking aftermath--the search for the bodies, the efforts of their families to deal with overwhelming grief, and the guilt and conflicting emotions of the surviving members of the firehouse. The book is also about the men themselves and the tight bond and sense of duty and honor that held them together. David Halberstam does a masterful job of illustrating the inner workings of a firehouse, with its traditions, routines, and complex social structure that in many ways resembles a "vast extended second family--rich, warm, joyous, and supportive, but on occasion quite edgy as well, with all the inevitable tensions brought on by so many forceful men living so closely together over so long a period of time." He also explains why so many men choose this life despite the high risk, relatively low pay, and physical and emotional demands of the job.

Halberstam and his family live three and a half blocks from Engine 40, Ladder 35, and he writes of these 13 men in such a loving and precise way that he could be describing members of his own clan. Deeply felt and emotional, Firehouse is a tribute to these decent, honorable, and heroic men and a celebration of their selflessness not only as firefighters but also as husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and friends. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Halberstam's gripping chronicle of a company of Manhattan firemen on September 11 is moving without ever becoming grossly sentimental an impressive achievement, though readers have come to expect as much from the veteran historian and journalist (author, most recently, of War in a Time of Peace). Engine 40, Ladder 35, a firehouse near Lincoln Center, sent 13 men to the World Trade Center, 12 of whom died. Through interviews with surviving colleagues and family members, Halberstam pieces together the day's events and offers portraits of the men who perished from rookie Mike D'Auria, a former chef who liked to read about Native American culture, to Captain Frank Callahan, greatly respected by the men for his dedication and exacting standards, even if he was rather distant and laconic (when someone performed badly at a fire he would call them into his office and simply give him "The Look," a long, excruciating stare: "Nothing needed to be said the offender was supposed to know exactly how he had transgressed, and he always did"). The book also reveals much about firehouse culture the staunch code of ethics, the good-natured teasing, the men's loyalty to each other in matters large and small (one widow recalls that when she and her husband were planning home renovations, his colleagues somehow found out and showed up unasked to help, finishing the job in record time). Though he doesn't go into much detail about the technical challenges facing the fire department that day, Halberstam does convey the sheer chaos at the site and, above all, the immensity of the loss for fellow firefighters.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A lasting memorial to those brave firefighters Oct. 16 2003
Format:Hardcover
Expecting a well-composed book from a popular and proficient historian, it was no surprise that it was memorable! Every word, every page was profoundly interesting, whether details were sadly moving or funny, the message was clear! This is a short and meaningful read.
As a person who was geographically distant, Colorado, from the tragedy, the horror effected the nation and me emotionally. When I learned that Pulitizer Prize winner and author Halberstam had written a book about that specific firehouse that lost 12 men, I wanted to read it.
Once you begin reading, you easily learn who the firemen were, their decisions to become firemen, their odd quirks, their funny moments, their other jobs, their passions, and of course their family. What is moving is the strong sincere bond they share, unique friendships, caring people willing to give their time to help each other out.
It was the talk that Joseph Ginley, whose firefighter son John Ginley died that made a profound impression. The father told them firefighting was a good life, you lived with other men in genuine camaraderie, and you ended up, almost without realizing it, having the rarest kind of friendships, ones with men who were willing to die for one another.
I came with a strong understanding of how a firefighter truly becomes this spirit of humanity and someone willing to give up their life for you.
On the inside cover is a memorial, the original blackboard with the names and their assignments. It's eerie. And as Halberstam begins, he shares just enough facts about the firehouse in Manhattan, it's origin and renovation. We learn the dynamics of highrise firehouses versus suburban firehouses and its firemen.
Then, you are immersed into a personal portrayal of each firefighter.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A tribute to thirteen brave firefighters. June 16 2003
Format:Hardcover
Halberstam does a great job of personalizing the September 11, 2001 tragedy by the portrayal of 13 brave New York firefighters of Engine 40, Ladder 35. Twelve of these men died on that day, along with many employees of the World Trade Center and countless other firemen. Halberstam gives a short biography of these thirteen along with a history of this particular firehouse.
This is a touching tribute to these firemen. All of them were male and most were white. Halberstam paints the positive side of all these men and makes them heroes.
The one small criticism I have of this book is that it makes these men larger than life. They are certainly heroes for going into a dangerous area with less than good prospects of returning.
These were men performing a dangerous job, but they were still human and had all the frailities of humans. What of the other hundreds of firemen who did not return that day? The tragedy of those other hundreds are lost in this story. This is a good book to read, but the reader has to bear in mind the other losses on that tragic day.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book about 9/11/01 that deserves to be read Jan. 19 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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5.0 out of 5 stars The quiet courage of Americans Jan. 13 2003
Format:Hardcover
This book sums up the problem with Halberstam's career in journalism - - - he has an ongoing fascination with power, courage, heroism and duty without ever quite understanding the origins of these qualities of character.
Quite simply, courage exists because anything else is unthinkable.
This is a tribute to firefighters who responded to the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. It may well be the best book written about the human side of the event, a focus on one firehouse where 12 of the 13 men who responded were killed. Anyone who's read The New York Times since is very familiar with the format of personal snapshots that Halberstam uses, and he does a credible job in a much expanded version of what the Times could ever offer.
But, he seems to be left grasping for an answer to "Why did they do it?"
My response, quite simply, is because they couldn't do anything else.
Halberstam outlines the spirit of camaraderie among firefighters in the first half of the book, very similar to a military unit where people train, live, play and work together. They become family, as close as their other families of wives and parents and children; like a good family, they don't "think" of danger to each other - - - they feel it instinctively.
It's the same reaction that occurs in good military units, and among the crews of good ships. Unlike the police, who often have the luxury of waiting for negotiators to defuse a tense situation, firefighters must respond immediately. As Halbertsam points out, being as much as a minute late may cost lives that could otherwise have been saved.
His observations from firefighters are like those of soldiers I've interviewed who served in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book by Halberstam
David Halberstam has written an engrossing and touching tribute to not just the FDNY but to firefighters everywhere. Read more
Published on June 8 2003 by Lisa Bahrami
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intro to Halberstam's classic style
'Firehouse' is a wonderful story of 12 men who perished while trying to save lives in the midst of chaos at Ground Zero. Read more
Published on May 13 2003 by Andy Orrock
5.0 out of 5 stars A fire fighter's job is too save lives and this makes heros
Firehouse
Usually David Halberstam books are not characterized with brevity, however, "Firehouse" is a precious assemble of insightful pieces of information about... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2003 by Golden Lion
5.0 out of 5 stars A book worth reading
This book was a requirement for me to read in one of my college classes, a class dedicated to trying to understand September 11th. But this book was very interesting. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Halberstam's fascination with men under pressure continues
Halberstam seems to have a young boy's crush on older, more masculine men. Like his sports books ("October 1964" and "Summer '49" about the world of baseball,... Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2002 by Charles S. Houser
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
Firehouse by David Halberstam was the first book dealing with September 11th that I read. I really felt like this book did a good job of letting you into the personal lives of... Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2002 by "hutkham"
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Analysis Of Firefighter's World!
As a veteran reader of 20th century history books, I've long considered David Halberstam to be one of the best and brightest of the contemporary historians publishing today. Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2002 by Barron Laycock
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering September 11th
I bought this book because I saw the author being interviewed on one of those morning talk shows. He seemed like a nice man and the way in which he described his book interested... Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Not impressed
I bought this book based on the reviews I read here. Unlike "Last Man Down" I found this book 90% boring. Read more
Published on Aug. 18 2002 by Burt Fisher
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