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The tragic events of September 11, 2001, forever altered the American landscape, both figuratively and literally. Immediately after the jets struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center, Dennis Smith, a former firefighter, reported to Manhattan’s Ladder Co. 16 to volunteer in the rescue efforts. In the weeks that followed, Smith was present on the front lines, attending to the wounded, sifting through the wreckage, and mourning with New York’s devastated fire and police departments.
This is Smith’s vivid account of the rescue efforts by the fire and police departments and emergency medical teams as they rushed to face a disaster that would claim thousands of lives. Smith takes readers inside the minds and lives of the rescuers at Ground Zero as he shares stories about these heroic individuals and the effect their loss had on their families and their companies. “It is,” says Smith, “the real and living history of the worst day in America since Pearl Harbor.” Written with drama and urgency, Report from Ground Zero honors the men and women who—in America’s darkest hours—redefined our understanding of courage.
Dennis Smith is a former firefighter and the author of fifteen books, including the bestselling Report from Ground Zero and Report from Engine Co 82. He has been at the forefront of the first-responder community since 9/11 and works on the board of Tribute, the interim memorial at the World Trade Center. He lives in New York City.read more
Reviews for Report from Ground Zero
Dennis Smith asks the question everyone can answer even nine years later, "where were you on September 11, 2001?" In Report From Ground Zero Smith asks key rescue personnel to recount the moments directly after seeing, hearing, or learning of the attack on the World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan. He calls each story a testimony. Smith starts by giving his own account which amounts to a litany of questions surrounding logistics and survival. As a retired New York City firefighter he anticipates the magnitude of destruction and ponders the challenges surrounding survival with great concern. As each rescue worker recounts that fateful, awful day a pattern starts to emerge. Initial disbelief turns into a sense of determination as the magnitude of destruction is fully realized. Every single response was to roll up the shirts sleeves, harden the jaw and with single minded pure grit get to work. After the dust has literally and figuratively settled other shared memories come to mind - how deathly quiet and dark everything became after the towers fell; how surreal the landscape. Like nothing they had even seen before or since.read more
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Dennis Smith was a firefighter for eighteen years. He wrote a famous book, [Report from Engine Co. 82], which made him a successful writer (2 million copies sold), but he kept his firefighter heart. Even in official retirement from the job, he carried the badge and title of an honorary chief in FDNY and served on the boards of several firefighter-related charities.On Sept. 11, 2001, he showed up at Ground Zero, where the help of this retired but experienced firefighter (along with many other retired firefighters who volunteered their skills) was accepted in the rescue and recovery efforts. Early on, he determined to write a book, dedicated to the first responders who died that day -- and whose names are all listed in the dedication. While the book recognizes the fact of the civilian deaths, it is about the uniformed personnel, especially firefighters, who perished and their brothers (and a few sisters) in service who sought to bring them home.The first section of the book (exactly half of the book) deals with the actual day September 11. It is comprised primarily of first-person accounts collected from those who responded to the alarms on that fateful day. There are a few exceptions: a few accounts from famly members of first responders; some accounts by Smith providing background about responders who perished and whose fate is recounted in subsequent stories by rescue personnel. These accounts are amazingly straightforward. While aware of the magnitude of the disaster, the danger to themselves, and the losses which were taking place around them, they remained, in large part, focused on the job they had to do. There is no melodrama in the telling of these stories, and not an ounce of self-pity -- but, then, there is plenty of drama in the straight facts. Some of these folks survived being buried alive -- and then, freed from the rubble, eventually went on to search for others.The second half of the book details. day by day, the rescue and recovery efforts which followed the initial disaster. While the first half of the book had a goodly representation of police voices (NYPD and Port Authority), this half is almost exclusively a firefighter's story. We see the family nature of firefighting in New York City; many of the elder firefighters searching so faithfully at Ground Zero are searching for their missing sons. Public service, you see, seems to run in the blood; several families lost multiple members -- in one case two brothers, a firefighter and a police officer.The book also chronicles the growing tension as operations morphed from rescue to recovery to clean-up. Firefighters have a strong ethic that none of their own shall ever be left behind at the scene of a tragedy. But the painstaking sifting of rubble for remains was a slow process; there were great pressures, economic and psychological, to get things cleaned up faster than a thorough recovery of remains allowed.And through it all, the funerals and memorial services continued, as firefighters honored their fallen comrades -- facing the painful decisions regarding whose funerals to attend in the wake of so much death. It is impossible for anyone who wasn't there to really, really grasp the reality of Ground Zero on 9/11 and the days that followed. But this book gave me a clearer glimpse than I've ever had before. It takes us into the heart and soul of the disaster at Ground Zero and of those on its front lines. It is painful, yet strangely uplifting to see the courage and integrity that these brave souls bring to their life's work. Recommended.read more
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