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Last Man Down: A Firefighter's Story of…
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Last Man Down: A Firefighter's Story of Survival and Escape from the World…

by Richard Picciotto

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Review: Last Man Down by Daniel Paisner.

There are probably many books out there about September 11th, 2011. This is only one man’s story of what happened to him through the harrowing experience. The book was well written and emotionally sensitive but not gory or overplayed, it was from the heart.

Chief Richard Picciotto uses his own words describing what he felt, sensed, seen, and retells the emotional roller-coaster he was on when he ordered the North Tower to be evacuated knowing there were many firefighting brother’s still in the building trying to save citizens. While on the thirty-fifth floor in the North Tower he had already heard about the South Tower collapsing. Now the North Tower was screeching, rumbling and vibrating terrible noises from above which he surmised this Tower was going down too. He felt he needed to make a decision because many more fire fighters were throughout the building and he wanted them to have the chance to get out before the building collapsed.

Many fire fighters were retreating through three different stairways. Stairwell A, and C were on opposite sides of the building and Stairwell B was in the center. It was a slow process down floor levels because at times there were too many people crammed together, all wanting to get out, and some of the passages needed to be cleared before they could move on. Picciotto and his crew, around six men, took the B stairwell so they could, with a faster pace, check each floor level for any person that might had been stranded trying to get out. There were many other firemen ahead of them so they weren’t totally a small crew maybe all together about seventy firemen.

When they got to the twentieth floor Chief Picciotto was still checking each floor when he came across a room closed off with about sixty people all scared and huddled together waiting for someone to help them out. They had come down from one of the real higher floors and needed help to keep going down. The firemen had reached a problem. About thirty people in that room were disable in one way or the other and the other caring people were staying with them and helping them get down the stairway at a slow pace. It didn’t take long for Chief Picciotto to get those seventy firefighters forming a line from the stairway to that room and moving the people out while still in the back of his mine he new more tragedy was near. At least now the firefighters were doing something they were sent into North Tower to do, save people. The guilt of retreating was fading in their mines as they helped each citizen in that room.

Chief Picciotto was at the rear still checking for people on his way down when he heard a horrible screeching and thunderous sounds coming down upon him and some of the men. He had time to think and feel that most of them got out in time as the North Tower collapsed. As he clears his senses he realizes he is alive and in the twisted debris of stairway B ten to fifteen men and one women citizen was also alive within the collapse area and in pockets of small open spaces. They began communicating back and forth and new they were trapped under the debris of the North Tower. From this point on the harrowing hours of what went on as they were trapped and nobody new they were alive… ( )
  Juan-banjo | Jul 26, 2016 |
This book is a personal account of the events following the collision of passenger filled aircraft into the north and south towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City on 11/09/01, or as it is known ‘9/11’ the USA date format which has prevailed throughout the worlds record of the events of that day.
Richard ‘Pitch’ Picciotto is a city fire chief responding to the terrorist attack by making rapid way to the World Trade Centre where he quickly gets involved in a doomed attempt to evacuate the workers in the north tower. While trying to reach the trapped workers, the south tower collapses. The author illustrates in a most vivid account, the consequential awareness that terrible things are happening, that they can be heard, but can neither be seen nor understood. Then the north tower collapses and here is the remarkable account of how a fortunate few among thousands less blessed came through and survived the collapse of one of the tallest buildings in the world. An outcome so unlikely as to verge on the unbelievable, of the thousands who died that day in the north tower this is the story of a dozen or so fire-fighters and a lone ‘civilian’ who survived inside the central stairwell as over 100 stories of office block above collapsed and fell upon them. The author describes himself as a ‘practising catholic who has forgotten how to practice’ by the end of the book I felt he should seriously reassess his attitude to observance!

The author’s description of these events is compelling and exciting but he spends rather too much time describing his own attitudes to life and his employers as to stray onto the margins of egoism, but this makes for a good read in terms of getting a grip and making things happen, and of course, if the account you relate is yours and yours alone then it can only be first person singular, and this is OK but given the odds against escape, I think the reading experience would have been improved by contributions from some others in the party led to safety by the author. So, for me this book is best thought of as a contribution to the wider picture of the narrative, which sets 9/11 in its historical perspective: -

I believe it has been easy for Europeans to forget how 9/11 played such an important part in moulding USA public opinion, which moved swiftly to a near unanimous approval for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But now the world is gripped by an awful remorse for the failure and loss of life involved in these invasions, and in the blind alleys where death’s sting prevails it has been easy to forget the horror that al Queda brought on 9/11 to New York, and in it’s direct or mutant forms to Bali, Madrid, London, Nairobi the Gulf and elsewhere. The polemic in this book is personal, not political; it is a tribute to the New York fire service and above all to the 343 of its brave men who lost their lives that day. To every one of them civilisation owes so very much. And to the several thousands of others murdered by Muslims who seek to destroy the standards of the free world we owe nothing less than a determination to see that enemy off. There is a power in that centrifugal force of grief. So let us mourn, and salute the dead, and pray that justice will prevail over revenge, for if God will not bless America, there is little hope for the rest of us. ( )
  summonedbyfells | May 25, 2007 |
Richard 'Pitch' Picciotto was one of the very few people who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers from the inside, caught up in the devastation of the implosion in the midst of trying to evacuate the building. This is the story of how he and some of his compatriots made it out, and fascinating reading it is too. We are all too aware of the images of September the 11th and most of us must have wondered what it was like to be there on that day. This book gives one unique view, and although it is brusque and not given to introspection, you can't help but wonder how you'd have responded. It's fair to say that running into one of the Towers while everyone else was trying to get out would not have been an instinctive personal reaction, but probably that's why I'm not a fireman! ( )
  uryjm | Sep 3, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425186776, Hardcover)

On September 11, 2001, FDNY Battalion Chief Richard "Pitch" Picciotto answered the call heard around the world. In minutes he was at Ground Zero of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center began to burn-and then to buckle. A veteran of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Picciotto was eerily familiar with the inside of the North Tower. And it was there that he concentrated his rescue efforts. It was in its smoky stairwells where he heard and felt the South Tower collapse. Where he made the call for firemen and rescue workers to evacuate, while he stayed behind with a skeleton team of men to help evacuate a group of disabled and infirm civilians. And it was in the rubble of the North Tower where Picciotto found himself buried-for more than four hours after the building's collapse.

This is the harrowing true story of a true American hero, a man who thought nothing of himself-and gave nearly everything for others during one of New York City's-and the country's-darkest hours.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:14 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Richard Picciotto, the highest-ranking firefighter to survive the collapse of the World Trade Center, provides an account of his activities and those of his fellow firefighters on September 11, 2001, when he and his team put their own lives on the line to help evacuate the North Tower, working until the building collapsed around them.… (more)

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