From the Publisher
“This isn't the first unvarnished portrayal of city fireman. It maybe the most stark and at times unsettling. But like the firemen, Downey sees no need for apologies. If someone will walk through a wall of flame to see if Grandma is inside your burning house, the rest is supposed to seem incidental.” New York Daily News
“Full of firefighters' war stories, of macho camraderie, and of the gallows humor common to men who put their lives on the line every day. . . A powerful tribute to men whose daily lives are the stuff of heroism.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Downey's descriptions burn into the pages with searing intensity. Writing with verve and energy in a gritty style, he explores all extremes of the firemen's world, from triumphant moments of heroism to bitter tragedies.” Publisher's Weekly
“I have been a career firefighter for 32 years and have read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies on firefighting; none rises to the level of authenticity of Tom Downey's The Last Men Out. . . . Downey does a masterful job.” James Grigsby, chief officer with the Roanoke Fire-EMS, The Roanoke Times
Deputy Chief Ray Downey, the most highly decorated firefighter in the history of the FDNY, died during the World Trade Center rescue operations, but months earlier, he had arranged for his nephew, filmmaker Tom Downey, to make a documentary on the emergency experts of Brooklyn's Rescue Company No. 2, the "most active firefighting unit in the city." After the completed film, Still Riding: Rescue Company New York City, aired on September 11, 2002, Tom Downey continued his research, writing about firefighters for the New York Times. For this book, he follows the efforts of the new captain, Phil Ruvolo, to take command and establish a rapport with his men. Interweaving the history and lore of landmark fires with daily chores and rituals, Downey recreates the firehouse's kitchen table banter and sardonic humor. He probes the physical toll and psychological problems firefighters experience, along with the job's dangers: "Crawling in for a job, a fireman would feel the linoleum, think it was safe to enter, and then fall through." Limning individual personalities and capturing the company's camaraderie with amusing anecdotes, Downey's descriptions burn into the pages with searing intensity. Writing with verve and energy in a gritty style, he explores all extremes of the firemen's world, from triumphant moments of heroism to bitter tragedies. The concluding chapters document 9/11 and its aftermath from the firemen's point of view: the "horrible losses" resulting in a massive shortage of qualified firefighters to fill the ranks of the rescue and squad companies. Agent, Heather Schroder. (June 1) Forecast: With national print ads, media appearances and an endorsement by Dennis Smith (Report from Engine Company 82), Downey's chronicle should find a welcome audience among firefighting buffs. A third of the author's royalties will go to the Chief Ray Downey Scholarship Fund and the Rescue 2 Memorial Fund. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The New York Fire Department is large enough to have specialist rescue units, groups of highly trained firefighters who are called in when a fire is particularly dangerous or people are trapped. They are physically indomitable and extremely competitive. Downey, a filmmaker and writer who grew up among firefighters, chronicles the building of the elite Rescue 2 company, which practices in Brooklyn and was recognized as one of the best in the country. On 9/11, Rescue 2 charged full force into the World Trade Center and was decimated. While much of the book is concerned with the camaraderie, bonding, humor, and training of the men, the last third or so is concerned with their reaction to the tragedy of losing dozens of friends, relatives, and comrades. Downey, nephew of one of the firefighters killed on 9/11, obviously loves and respects the FDNY and has ably expressed the emotional involvement of firefighters with their profession and their coworkers. The author spent more than a year at the firehouse before 9/11 and continued his research afterward. Recommended for public libraries and subject collections.-Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Writer/filmmaker Downey looks inside one of New York's elite firehouses before and after 9/11. Brooklyn's Rescue 2 company is charged with saving endangered firefighters from other houses. Following the Rescue 2 crews on their missions, staying in the firehouse between calls, the author began in the summer of 2000 a documentary film about their work. The book opens in 1996 with a fatal accident, Rescue 2's first loss of one of its members since the 1950s. The stunned reaction of the victim's comrades, tough and competitive men with enormous pride in their mission, clearly defines the bond between these men who refer to themselves as brothers. Downey then moves back in time to paint the history of Rescue 2 under its various captains: Fred Gallagher, who pushed his crew to excel at firefighting during the '70s, when fires were an overt symptom of racial strife; his successor Ray Downey (the author's uncle), whose physical courage and ability to breathe even the thickest smoke were key components in his leadership; and Phil Ruvolo, who brought the company into the new era of firefighting after 9/11. The narrative is full of firefighters' war stories, of macho camaraderie, and of the gallows humor common to men who put their lives on the line every day. Downey also gives the reader insight into the bureaucratic jungle of New York City government, where political back-scratching intrudes even into the meritocracy of firefighting. The author has a keen eye for character, and the rugged individualists of Rescue 2 give him plenty of material to work with. The book builds inevitably to 9/11, when eight men from Rescue 2, as well as their former Captain Ray Downey, lost their lives. THis narrativedescribes the tragedy without histrionics, making its impact even stronger. A powerful tribute to men whose daily lives are the stuff of heroism. Agent: Heather Schroder/ICM
Read an Excerpt
From The Last Men Out:
Small pockets of fire tease the engine company men who spray the ceilings and walls trying to shake down the flames. Terry hears an engine guy ask Louis to hug the wall so they can bend the stiff hose around the corner.
Suddenly, Terry hears a snap, like a wooden plank being split with an ax, then a much louder cracking noise that makes him shudder. He dives to the ground as the roof and walls crumble around him. Firemen cry out and Maydays go out over the radio. But nobody can hear the calls. They’re all buried.
Terry’s first thought is to get air. As he hears the men around him burrowing to the surface, he claws his way toward the sunlight. He feels cold snow on his glove as he heaves his body up out of the rubble.
Most of the firemen around Terry have also been lucky. But when Terry starts to wade through the debris, a piece of shiny black rubber catches his eye. Two boots sticking out of the rubble. He gets on the radio.
“Rescue Chauffeur to Battalion. Mayday. We have a man trapped about ten feet from the rear door.”