Last Man Down: A Firefighter's Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center Hardcover – Apr 30 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
When the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, Picciotto, an FDNY battalion commander, was inside it, on a stairwell between the sixth and seventh floors, along with a handful of rescue personnel and one "civilian." This outspoken account tells of that indelible day, and it will shake and inspire readers to the core. The book starts by listing the 343 firefighters who died from the attacks, setting an appropriately grave tone to what follows, which begins as the author heads to work at Engine Co. 76 and Ladder Co. 22 on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Then comes a call on the intercom, and soon he is racing down to the World Trade Center. Arriving, he dodges falling bodies, runs inside and upstairs with a battalion not his own. Early in the book, this straightforward accounting is intercut with flash-forwards to 9:59 a.m., when Picciotto, on the 35th floor of the north tower, experiences the collapse of the south tower not visually, but aurally and in his body ("the building was shaking like an earthquake... but it was the rumble that struck me still with fear. The sheer volume of it. The way it coursed right through me... like a thousand runaway trains speeding toward me"). Picciotto, writing with Paisner (coauthor of autobios by Montel Williams and George Pataki, among others), pulls no punches, naming those who hindered his work and those who helped, taking numerous swipes at what he sees as a fire department bureaucracy whose money pinching puts firefighters at risk. This mouthiness can grate, but it certainly gives the flavor of a man and a department whose heroism became clear to all that day. It's Picciotto and his comrades' courage and willingness to sacrifice that every reader will remember, and honor, upon closing this gritty, heartfelt remembrance of a day of infamy and profound humanity.
This gripping, first-person account of a 9-11 survivor provides a firefighter's view of the World Trade Center catastrophe. An invaluable eyewitness to history as well as a professional just doing his job, Battalion Commander Richard Picciotto was inside the North Tower when it collapsed. Determined to be the last man down, Picciotto coordinated the rescue effort of several dozen incapacitated civilians. Stranded on the landing between the sixth and seventh floors when the building came tumbling down around and on top of him, Chief "Pitch," a small band of fellow firefighters, and one grandmotherly civilian improbably survived the collapse in a small vacuum created by the placement of the twisted debris. Collaborator Paisner, a best-selling biographer, allows Pitch to tell his harrowing story in his own no-nonsense voice. Picciotto bluntly castigates the departmental administrators responsible for the cost-cutting and ultimately life-threatening measures that left the leadership ranks depleted and the men on the line seriously underequipped. Certain to be a best-seller, this inspirational account serves as a tribute to all the firefighters and rescue personnel who unquestioningly put their lives on the line that day. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
His description of being in a stairwell on the 35th floor of the North tower when the South tower started to collapse will bring tears to your eyes. The recounting of his controversial decision to evacuate the rescue workers that were still climbing up the stairs of the North tower was compelling and probably saved the lives of hundreds of fire fighters. Reading his description of the collapse of the North tower while he was still on its 7th floor is almost as indescribable as the sounds he was hearing. And then his description of trying to figure out if he was dead or alive ("maybe this is what it feels like to be dead") are just some of the highlights that come to mind. But after all is said and done, it's the "diary" of his entire day, in story form, from the senior FDNY officer in the upper floors of the North tower, that puts you in the tower, with he and his men, in one of the most horrible, unimaginable situations the civilized world has ever experienced.
What made the story even more real for me is that the book covers about 12 hours of Picciotto's day and took me about 12 hours to read, making it appear as a "real time" account of this piece of 9-11 history.
The description of the day is clear and so well described, it will help people who were not there to better understand how so many people were saved that day. I know. I was in the North Tower on Sept 11, on the 40th floor when the first plane hit. As I went down the stairs, stairwell A or C, (I'm still not sure which), it was exactly the scene the Picciotto laid out. We did not see firefighters until I was down to the 20's, so I am sure that I saw some of the companies described in the book. Reading the book helped me understand better what they were doing and why. As we were going down, when we saw those men, with all that gear going up those stairs with such persistence, some part of me knew that we would survive. They helped us out of Hell itself.
I knew then what real heroes are, Picciotto and his brothers have set the bar, and they've set it high. I remember that on one of the landings near the teens there was one fire fighter, he was a big guy, 6'3" 250lbs, standing, calm but breathing hard. He was in full turnout gear with oxygen on his back, his helmet cocked back on his head. Our eyes met, he had clear blue eyes and a thick blond moustache. I said good luck and really meant it. And he just nodded clearly confident, knowing he was doing his job, saving people. Picciotto helps us all remember that strength and courage.Read more ›
"Last Man Down" is a scintillating description of one fire chief's story of survival in the World Trade Center collapse. I learned of the book when I saw Chief Picciotto interviewed on "Imus in the Morning" on MSNBC. I immediately ordered the book through Amazon.com. As I expected, having heard this man's story, I found the book to be gripping, technically very detailed, one that leaves you awe-struck. Then, it leaves you.
The book effectively ends with the Chief in the hospital. It says nothing of what happened afterwards. I wanted to know what came of the others spoken of in the book, those who were trapped in the stairwell with him. I was looking for stories of finding these brave souls weeks later, and recounting their adventure and aftermath. Did he attend the funeral of the other Chief who couldn't hold on and perished in the stairwell? We don't know, and the human interest portion of this story is easily as important of the technical details of the rescue. Humanity is what made "Band of Brothers" truly great, and it's missing in "Last Man Down."
I don't know why it ended there, whether it was publishing deadlines, a lack of editorial insight, or if there is some thought of a sequel. But what was a very intense few hours of reading didn't pay off. I suppose it parallels his story, in that once he emerged from the rubble, he expected more of a hero's welcome, but didn't get it. Perhaps, like the survivors who were too shell-shocked to celebrate his escape, he couldn't process anything more. I hope that we will hear the rest of the story someday.
turmoil. Even though he was trapped and helpless he was still giving orders to his rescuers on how to find him and save him. Once he is rescued, he goes back to his job. He doesn't thank his rescuers for finding him nor do we hear about the civilians that were trapped in the rubble. This book left me wanting more, not
necessary the graphic details which the book does portray in a vivid manner but more feeling. He told his tale in a dry clinical manner. At times I found myself calling him selfish and just wanting to be a hero. I have read Firehouse which gave you the life behind the men and am currently reading Report from Ground
Zero. The latter book has already given Sept 11 an outlet for showing all sides of that day, which this book failed.
Most recent customer reviews
I'm surprised that I actually read the whole book. It is several hundred pages of one man boasting about his role on this tragic day. Read morePublished on June 23 2004 by Shirley W. Ackerman
I read this book after hearing about it from a friend. I found it was a very enlighting story of the heroism and humanity of new york firefighters. Read morePublished on June 18 2004
Chief Picciotta took a horrific day in our city and country's history and tried to turn it into a personal account of his own so-called heroism. Read morePublished on June 14 2004
This book is frankly, terrible. The author sets himself up as the one-and-only hero in his world of self-centeredness. Read morePublished on June 3 2004 by Tim
When I first began reading Last Man Down, I found it to be very interesting and I really liked it. I began to tell all of my friends and even my family members that they should... Read morePublished on March 23 2004 by Kasondra
One of the most amazing books that i have ever read. One man gives his opinions in a raw unforgiving emotional testimony. He tells it like it was. In years to come.... Read morePublished on March 11 2004 by jesse
I'm not a fire fighter but I think that I can appreciate the work that they do and the horror that descended upon the FDNY on Sept 11. Read morePublished on Jan. 28 2004 by Tony McKeown
Just as one small example, read pages 29 to 32, in which the Book Smart Chief "races" through the borough. Read morePublished on Dec 29 2003 by L.T.
I picked up this book solely because I had heard this man talking on the radio to promote this book. For the entire 1.5 hours the man talked, I was riveted to the radio. Read morePublished on Dec 6 2003 by david lykens