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Last Man Down: A Firefighter's Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center Hardcover – April 30, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Hardcover (April 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425186776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425186770
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Goldenberg on May 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had seen Chief Picciotto and heard parts of his amazing story on TV last September but nothing takes the place of reading the details of his 9-11, in his own words.
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.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Robert Tyrie on May 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Last Man Down is a clear, nerve-wracking, compelling personal account of one professional's experience on Sept 11. It is story of a midtown Battalion Fire Chief, who leads with courage and experience on that horrible day. What make it great is that it covers the detailed technical aspects of rescue work in high-rise disasters, as well as the personal account of a victim of terrorism, it works on both levels.
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.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Let me get this right....Picciotto talks an FDNY dispatcher into allowing him to respond and he abandons his own division. Upon arrival at the command post, he ignores command protocal, commandeers the crew from 110 Truck, then abandons them in the stairwell (because he is in such great shape).
He then gives the order for all firefighters to evacuate, lies to several firefighters that he has seen their Lieutenant on floors below and searches each floor as he goes down (last of course).
He becomes trapped in the stairwell and he leads all the firefighters out (of course), although he doesn't wait for any of his "brothers", cause he says in the book that by the time he gets off the pile, the brothers behind him are not even in his sight.
Then the first time he returns to ground zero, in October 2001, he brings a writer with him (Mr Paisner). WOW. $$$$$$
Recent NY newspaper stories quote firefighters who "doubt" his story and say he overexaggerated. Picciotto himself is quoted as saying that maybe he "assumed" some things happened, which he says occurred (in the book) .
And for this he is a bestselling author? Give me a break!!!
I have the utmost respect for FDNY and their firefighters. I was friends with several of those who died. Picciotto is a hero because he has served the people of New York for all those years, however, this account he tells tarnishes all that.
Save your money or buy Dennis Smith's book "Report From Ground Zero" and get a story that is ALL true, told by those with the morals and ethics to be truthful and accurate, of which Picciotto's account is neither.
Signed: A 27 year veteran firefighter.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Doug Bridewell on December 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
During the Summer of 2002, I read Richard Picciotto's book "Last Man Down." While I can appreciate what this man must have went through during the horrible collapse of the WTC, I felt like I was being shovelled a lot of ... His constant reference to his rank and how important he is really turned me off. I have been a firefighter for 18 years myself and I felt the tone he used in writing this book was condescending to the lower ranking firefighters. Recently in "Fire Engineering" online, there was an article about how the crew of FDNY Ladder 6 has spoken up about BC Picciotto exaggerating his role of that day of 9/11/2001. In reading the book, I personally couldn't get past BC Picciotto's insecurities with his position as BC or with himself. By his own accounts, he was the "First Man Down." The true heroes of this story were the captain and crew of Ladder 6.
While the book is an interesting read, you really need to sift through the BS to appreciate the story. Good job Ladder 6!!!
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