It took five years for authors Patrick Creed, a volunteer firefighter and Army officer, and Rick Newman, a writer for U.S. News and World Report, to pull together this story. Combing public records and conducting 150 interviews, Creed and Newman have done a monumental reporting job. Firefight tells the tale moment by moment through the accounts of dozens of participants and eye-witnesses. The book needed an editor with a sharper blue pencilit's too long, and the writing can be monotonous. Not unlike the heroes whose stories they tell, however, Creed and Newman faced a daunting challenge, rose to the occasion and rescued a piece of history from the ashes.
The Washington Post
Creed, a U.S. Army officer and volunteer firefighter, and U.S. News and World Report staff writer Newman (Bury Us Upside Down) interviewed thousands of people who were involved after terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:38 the morning of 9/11, while personnel were grouped around TV sets watching the Twin Towers attack in New York. Within two minutes, fire crews from Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria and Washington, D.C. converged on the site, joining military and civilian personnel working to rescue those trapped in the building-Surgeon General P.K. Carlton working to help the injured, Navy SEALS stationed to catch people jumping from windows. But it was the firemen who took the lead in the search and rescue effort, fire control and helping to secure classified material in structurally compromised areas. Creed and Newman provide a minute-by-minute account of operations during the first two days, carrying the story through 9/21 when, with the situation under control, the FBI took charge of the crime scene. This gripping account of national tragedy and personal heroism gives readers a you-are-there look at the disaster that claimed 189, and a real appreciation for the work that kept it from claiming more.
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Creed, a U.S. Army officer and volunteer firefighter, and Newman (U.S. News & World Report; Bury Us Upside Down) interviewed over 100 people who endured the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and its aftermath. Their book describes the epic struggle of firefighters, police, first responders, and others from the time of the attack through the completion of rescue and recovery operations ten days later, when the matter was turned over to the FBI. About 90 people are listed at the front of the book as "recurring characters," and their heroic efforts are detailed in firsthand accounts that, in a concise, readable manner, show just how difficult it was to operate effectively in the midst of one of the largest structure fires in U.S. history. The task simply of coordinating government, fire, and rescue agencies in battling the inferno and rescuing victims and then of conducting forensic and related crime-scene investigations was monumental. The authors also discuss how the Pentagon maintained its command infrastructure despite the attack and how victims, rescuers, and their families were affected. It is the personal stories, told moment by moment, that should keep readers interested and inspired. This gripping, often harrowing story of courage, conviction, and survival is recommended for all collections, although those looking for a more comprehensive account should also consider Pentagon 9/11 from the Department of Defense Historical Office.
A well-paced, well-written account of a successful battle. It was fought by numerous civilian firefighting companies from the Washington, DC, area, especially those from Arlington County, where the Pentagon sits. The response by firefighters from the Virginia and Maryland suburbs, the District, and also from nearby Reagan National Airport was admirably rapid and the dangers to them were immense; the relatively small loss of life in the Pentagon is a tribute to their courage and skills. Hundreds of workers-civilian and military-risked their lives and certainly harmed themselves by breathing toxic fumes laced with petroleum and building dust to save coworkers, and readers will learn of the many people deserving recognition. What many who are familiar with the 9/11 attacks do not know is that those gathered to save the Pentagon, normally occupied by 25,000 people, were warned that another commercial airliner was potentially inbound, perhaps to finish the job. This saga is much less well known than the story of the New York City Fire Department responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Teens will be enlightened and inspired by this valuable book.-Alan Gropman, National Defense University, Washington, DC
An intimate, almost minute-by-minute account of the emergency response to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Prior to 9/11, the Pentagon's iconic status easily exceeded that of the World Trade Center. Nevertheless, that date's dramatic events in New York, particularly the unimaginable collapse of the towers, have since obscured the almost simultaneous assault on the very symbol of America's armed forces, where, write the authors, "about two million square feet of office space-the equivalent of the entire Empire State Building-was [rendered] uninhabitable due to fire, smoke, and structural damage." U.S. Army officer and firefighter Creed and U.S. News & World Report journalist Newman (co-author: Bury Us Upside Down: The Misty Pilots and the Secret Battle for the Ho Chi Minh Trail, 2006) remind us of the devastation wrought in Arlington and of the almost superhuman effort required to quell the resulting inferno. From the moment the hijackers flew Flight 77 into the building, killing 59 passengers and crew members and 125 people who worked there, the Pentagon was transformed into a war zone. Using the eyewitness testimony of dozens of people inside and outside the building (a helpful index to many of the recurring names precedes the narrative), the authors painstakingly reconstruct the sequence of events, focusing particularly on the initial 48 hours and the efforts of first-responders. Though a host of government agencies were involved, the authors highlight the firefighters, particularly the Arlington County Fire Department. For these men the Pentagon's unique design and construction-memorably explicated in Steve Vogel's The Pentagon: A History: The Untold Story of the Wartime Race to Buildthe Pentagon-And to Restore it Sixty Years Later, 2007-the intensity of the explosion and the persistent flames combined to produce a "career fire," the professional challenge of a lifetime. Thoroughly, but never tediously, the authors demonstrate how the firefighters-despite private fears and worries, exhaustion, dehydration and smoke inhalation, multiple threats of renewed attack, competing priorities of law enforcement and various military and political exigencies-responded brilliantly to the horror. A remarkable piece of journalism, and a service to history. Agent: Jane Dystel/Dystel & Goderich Literary Management
Advance praise for Firefight
“Firefight is a gripping human drama and a powerful story–not to mention a significant addition to the annals of American history.”
–David Morrell, author of First Blood
“Overshadowed by the calamity in New York, the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, was nonetheless a day of extraordinary drama, heroism, and tragedy. With riveting detail and a compelling narrative, Patrick Creed and Rick Newman have done a superb job in Firefight of capturing the courage, chaos, and sacrifice of that remarkable day.”
–Steve Vogel, author of The Pentagon: A History
“A gripping inside look at the swift actions taken by a small group of firefighters who saved the Pentagon from destruction.”
–Bing West, author of No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah
“Firefight presents a different view of September 11, getting into the actions and mindsets of both the firefighters and the military in Washington D.C. A powerful read.”
–Richard Picciotto, co-author of Last Man Down: A New York City Fire Chief and the Collapse of the World Trade Center
“Firefight does an excellent job of showing the unique issues presented when the heart of America’s military was attacked on September 11, 2001. As I read this book, I felt a brotherhood with the courageous professionals at the scene of the Pentagon and their need to ameliorate the suffering of others.”
–Lt. William Keegan, Jr., PAPD., author of Closure: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Recovery Mission
“This little-known but equally horrifying story of 9/11 will raise the hair on your neck and add to the historical outrage inspired by these senseless murders. The firefighters are seen in grit and in heroism as they fight their way through the Pentagon flames to contain the fires, triage the wounded, interrelate with the FBI, and search for the all-important black boxes. Read this book to remind yourself just how shocked you were that day.”
–Dennis Smith, chairman of First Responders Financial and author of Report from Ground Zero