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5.0 out of 5 stars A lasting memorial to those brave firefighters
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...
Published on Oct. 16 2003 by  RIZZO 

versus
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. I am generally interested in people's lives but the author had a way of putting me to sleep. I found the profiles of WTC victims in the New York Times much more interesting.
Is is not politically correct to not put 5 stars on this review, if your...
Published on Aug. 18 2002 by Burt Fisher


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5.0 out of 5 stars A lasting memorial to those brave firefighters, Oct. 16 2003
By 
 RIZZO  (Denver Metro Area) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Firehouse (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. And it isn't just an account of each man, the details offer more than you bargained for. The information is weaved strategically and suttle. It's very clear that Halberstam conducted a serious number of interviews, because he got such remarkable information that doesn't come with one or two interviews, it comes for a volume of detail about a person. Upon reading these intimate details, as you delve deeper into what made this fireman, his values, friendships, faith, family, etc., you can't help but keep looking at the pictures, putting a face with the name.
Clearly, the writing is what really made this a special account. What a warm feeling I get from these men who are strangers to me, but I learned about a "true fireman" and am reminded by what veteran fireman Ray Pfeifer said, "People think they know what we do, but they really don't know what we do." I say..people..... educate yourself here, because those faces on the back are real people, real firemen, the firemen we really don't know or understand. And when you finish this book, you will look at firemen differently..... ...MZ RIZZ
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4.0 out of 5 stars A tribute to thirteen brave firefighters., June 16 2003
By 
Kevin M Quigg (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Firehouse (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
By 
Katie F. "kayters" (Marietta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Firehouse (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
By 
Theodore A. Rushton (PHOENIX, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Firehouse (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. It reflects what I've found to be an underlying but absolutely rock-solid quality of Americans - - - regardless of the person, their unquestioning dedication to honor, duty, loyalty when the chips are down.
Halberstam offers all the ingredients of this "pudding" in his book, which I think every reader will recognize. My one complaint is that he fails to draw it all together into a coherent analysis and tribute to the enduring American character. In that, he's very like the firefighters he describes; they don't boast, and they're not overly introspective - - - they simply do what needs to be done when whatever it is needs doing.
Perhaps it takes a non-American to recognize this fundamental quality of most Americans; not just firefighters, but of all Americans when faced with a crisis. Like most brave people, firefighters don't flaunt their courage; like the astute journalist he is, Halberstam doesn't invent reasons his subjects don't talk about.
Yet, it is all in his book. Time and again, readers will recognize gems of courage, duty, honor and selfless dedication to family that good firefighters posses. Perhaps it's the best way to describe what motivated the men of Engine 40/Ladder 35 who responded and died that fateful day. They didn't boast, Halberstam doesn't. Instead, he tells the story of these men who are so like the firefighters in every community. In his low-key manner, he describes qualities of ordinary Americans which draws the admiration of the world.
Had he tried for more, he would have come across as a pretentious twit. Instead, when you read this book, there's a real sense of the heroism that shone through like a beacon on Sept. 11, 2001. Halberstam has done a masterful job.
As a foreigner, let me recommend this book as a superb even if understated tribute to the quiet courage of Americans, and especially firefighters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fire fighter's job is too save lives and this makes heros, Jan. 8 2003
By 
Golden Lion "Reader" (North Ogden, Ut United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Firehouse (Hardcover)
Firehouse
Usually David Halberstam books are not characterized with brevity, however, "Firehouse" is a precious assemble of insightful pieces of information about the men of Engine 40, Ladder 35. Halberstam takes into the firehouse and it culture by introducing us to the team of 35/40. The word "calm" describes a seasoned fire fighter and its the highest praise given veteren. Panic is dangerous and can spread quickly through the team. Rules of the fire house are following with exactness, rules keep the men from getting lazy and soft, and rules save lives. Men eat, sleep, and work from the fire house. The environment was be rich, friendly, and support; but inevitable tensions brought on by so many forceful men living together can create edginess. The fire house culture is careful woven and the men hand selected. Credentials don't come with a college diploma but from tests of character. The numerous adjustments result so they can love one another.
A fire fighter job is too save lives and this makes them heros, but it doesn't come with out risks: tremendous heat, collasping structures, arriving to late to save a life, toxic chemicals, explosions, and high rise buildings. The men and women learn to watch each other, their survival depends on performance. Weakness is soon observed. "Probie" is a probationary or apprentice firefighter. When he joins a firehouse, he must adjust to the firehouse culture, rather than the firehouse adjusting to him. He must learn the rules and traditions.
Cooperation in the fire house requires mandatory: cooking, cleaning, and entertainment. The firehouse manages disputes in much the same way a dispute is handled in the military through contests of opinion, "speak your mind" but make sure your support. A firehouse pivots around the fire chief and Captain Callahan represented a quite, reserved, and humble style of leadership; but when faced with bureacratic nonsense - stood up to the hyprocrisy - winning the admiration of his men, "now we've have us a captain, A great captain."
Fire fighting in Manhattan required the best fire fighters. Fire fighting in high rise structures is extremely dangerous and demanding. The heat depletes oxygen supplies quickly requiring constant switch of oxygen supplies and many fire fighter quickly relocated after their first experiences in these situations. Panic is the enemy and the senior fire fighters showed the young fighter show to stand calm in the face of danger. Tradition and family recruited the best fire fighters. Careers in Fire fighting usually started with young boys admiring their fire fighting dads. The crisp uniforms, ribbons, and professional image endeared these young boys to want to become fire fighters themselves. Many families cultured reputations and transferred family knowledge and skills from father to son. Legendary fire fighters ran in the family. These men knew how to fight fire, they knew how to read a fire, and they knew how to escape. If a man was lost to a fire a memorial event focused the men around his memory. In the case of engine 40 a memorial race focused the men around a lost colleque. The fire house was looking for its fifth victory in the race. Little rituals kept the men sane and ready to respond. The fire fighters never had reservations to respond to a fire or disaster. 343 men would respond and would go forward into the worst disaster of their lives.
The call to respond to 9/11 was no different and their sacrifices will not go unnoticed. The pain of losing a complete firehouse goes beyond description. The pain would be felt through each generation of previous fire fighters. One touching story Halberstam shares is a mother waiting for her son to return home who remains determined to believe her son is still alive, leaving his meal on the table until he returns. Another powerful narrative is the message, to John Morello retired fire department battalion chief, his son is dead. The only surviver was chea. Chea was in the act of helping other escape the South Tower. When it collasped the implosion threw him a block resulting in a broken neck and unconsciousness. He was transported by ambulence, lowered to a boat, and delivered to a hospital. He never completely recovered.
.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Halberstam's fascination with men under pressure continues, Sept. 14 2002
By 
Charles S. Houser (Binghamton, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Firehouse (Hardcover)
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, and "The Amateurs" about the unnoted world of rowing), "Firehouse" is about a group of men who live in an insular world (an eviable subculture, almost). These are brave men who look after one another, test and tease one another, have trouble expressing their feelings (though Halberstam assures us they feel deeply), and do it all by some sort of finely-tuned Hemingwavian code of honor. What he presents is a sort of northern male version of "Steel Magnolias." If you work in an academic institution or office setting where daily sniping, political intrigue, and constant back-biting are de rigueur, it's hard not to be seduced by the comraderie revealed in these pages.
The stories of the thirteen firefighters from a single FDNY firehouse that lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 are carefully intertwined, a structural device that reinforces the sense of intimacy and interdependence that Halberstam so strongly evokes. Do not expect a dramatic depiction of what actually occurred on that tragic date, Halberstam is honest enough not to try and create details that can no more be recovered from the chaos of that day than most victims' bodies are likely to be found among the rubble. The story is in the simplicity of the firefighters' mission and training. We witness survivors wondering at their "luck," the odd circumstances that put them somewhere else when their company was called to action. It is to Halberstam's credit that he does not presume to understand or explain these painful ironies.
If you read the article Halberstam wrote for Vanity Fair on the same subject, you will be hard pressed to find additional details in this "expanded" version. But that's not a reason to dismiss the book. Halberstam gives us a glance at a world most of us assumed disappeared years ago. A world where honest, unpretentious people care deeply for their comrades, take their responsibilties seriously, and give of themselves sacrificially.
The book is a "keeper" and is going on my shelf with other gender studies titles, like E. Anthony Rotundo's "American Manhood" and Clifford Putney's "Muscular Christianity."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Analysis Of Firefighter's World!, Sept. 12 2002
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Firehouse (Hardcover)
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. He is also, not so coincidentally, one of the most prolific, as well, having produced a steady stream of works covering such myriad historical and cultural subjects as a study of how both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations stumbled and blundered their way into the quagmire of Vietnam to more whimsical studies of pop-cultural aspects of American life such as major league baseball and the effects of the seasons on residents of the island of Nantucket off the Massachusetts coast. In this book, "Firehouse", Halberstam focuses on a subject more timely and more local than ever before, describing the lives and death of the men and women of the local fire station a few blocks from his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, people who figured so fatefully in the events of last September eleventh.
As Halberstam so powerfully describes, only one of the thirteen men answering the first response for assistance at the World trade center survived the events of the day. This book deals with the specific nature of that response, the natural history of that day as events unfolded, and the fate of the men as well as the aftermath of their deaths for their families, friends, fellow workers, and the community at large. One of the most admirable qualities of this superb book stems from the fact that Halberstam is a "local", someone involved and participating in the day to life of the community. Consequently, he can authoritatively describe the rich and momentous history of the firehouse itself, and the centuries of tradition and community support that made it and the community of firemen and women so important in the life of the local area.
For Halberstam, the Firehouse represents a kind of large and amorphous type of informal second family both for the firefighters as well as for the more general population at large. He writes convincingly of the ways in which the inner workings of a firehouse, with its own unique and interesting traditions, routines, and complex social structure provides support and succor for the whole community, becoming a vibrant, inviting, and warm environment for all involved. At the same time, he details the ways in which all those tensions that the job itself makes unavoidable spills out and adds an edgy dynamic to the social atmosphere. He also helps us to understand just why it is that men and women with other choice and other opportunities prefer to opt for this kind of life, despite the obvious risks and dangers, despite the relatively low wages and the stress and physical demands associated with the profession.
This book is somewhat of a departure for Halberstam in the sense that it one more fraught with emotional overtones than his usual subject matter. Yet when dealing with the provocatively intense subject of these thirteen souls who answered the call last September, in describing their immediate fate, the exhausting search for their bodies, and the efforts on the part of their families, both individually and collectively, to come to terms with their loss and their grief, it is hard to avoid such intensity. He also deals thoughtfully with the issue of survivor's guilty on the part of the surviving firefighters in the firehouse, and the complex ways in which their conflicting feelings of guilt and relief are being handled and discussed.
Indeed, this is a riveting book, one that well deserves the wide reading it will certainly enjoy. Halberstam's treatment is so personal, so well documented, and so meticulously narrated that one finds himself swept along with the tide of events of that day last year when the world seemed to stand still, when all of us watched in horror as the massive evil manifested on that day came to full fruit. The book carries the signature trademark qualities of all of Halberstam's work, being meticulously researched, powerfully narrated and beautifully described. It focuses on an aspect of one of the most profoundly memorable days in contemporary history, and gives powerful testimony to the power of care, compassion, and sacrifice and why we must continue to honor and appreciate those who fell in the line of duty both on that fateful day, and in the days that followed and will continue to do so as we continue to prosecute the war against terrorism. I highly recommend this book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering September 11th, Sept. 1 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Firehouse (Hardcover)
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 me. As most of us were deeply saddened by the events that took place on September 11th, this book made me feel like I knew these firemen that lost their lives. Some times I had to put the book down because it became too painful. By reading the book I can see that firefighters and police officers are a breed set apart. May be now I have a little more respect for those men described in the book. I understand them a little more but I don't think I could handle their jobs. I did however get to know a little more about the bonding of these men at the Firehouse. This book is somewhat of a memorial for those men that lost their lives. Afer I read the book I felt a little like someone who had lost a friend. They all had such interesting lives and families that loved them. I really feel for the families and hope that by the writing of this book it will help them heal.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Heroes, Aug. 17 2002
By 
Randy Keehn (Williston, ND United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Firehouse (Hardcover)
This in a very good book about a group of men at a Manhatten firehouse who were called to duty on September 11, 2001. I got the feeling that they weren't called to duty so much as they heard duty calling them. In this brief book we are given a glimpse of each of the men who responded to the call. We are also given a briefer glimpse at those who were not on duty that day and how they dealt with their emotions. To most of us, the men who risked their lives were certainly heroes but they remained names without a story. Mr. Halberstam has given this group a personality that enables the reader to more greatly appreciate their sacrifice. For this reason alone, the book's mere 200 pages are well worth the short time it takes to read. However, this is a story about all firemen because of how the author gives us a vivid insight to life in the firehouse. We see the cameraderie and the fraternal nature of firefighters. The pay is poor and the risk is great but good men continue to respond to the call. In this book we get a sense as to why that is.
If this book has a fault it is that its' subjects are too perfect. These men have no faults; if they are grumpy, they are loveably grumpy, if they are divorced, the divorce was amicable and they remain on good terms with their ex. Should we be told of personal shortcomings for these fallen heroes? Many would say no. However, I believe that the author meant for us to see these men as people like ourselves; men who were doing the hourly-pay job that they were trained to do. In their case they made a difference by perservering in their jobs in the face of imminent peril. In our case we may never have to face such a challenge but these men have shown us that ordinary men doing extra-ordinary things DO make a difference. By portraying these men as a cut above ordinary, the point is lost. Still, there is much greatness in this book and I am content to accept the men as the author has chosen to portray them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon Courage By Ordinary People, July 15 2002
This review is from: Firehouse (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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Firehouse
Firehouse by David Halberstam (Hardcover - May 29 2002)
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