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Last Man Down    by Richard Picciotto & Daniel Paisner order for
Last Man Down
by Richard Picciotto
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I was asked if this was a hard book to read. My answer was 'Yes'. Definitely a hard book to read. A chilling account of 'A Firefighter's Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center.'

The courage and dedication of firefighters may have, up to this point, been taken for granted by the general public. But after reading this account, the reader can more clearly understand the scope of firefighters' jobs and the skills they must have to save lives. No one can doubt the true spirit that moves a man to rush into a burning building with the purpose of first saving lives and then of containing the fire.

Many public servants lost their lives on that tragic day - 9/11 2001 - firefighters, police, medical personnel. We have men like Richard Picciotto to thank that more weren't lost. His crew helped many civilians to leave the ruined One Trade Center and then found themselves trapped. How they managed to escape and carried a civilian - Josephine Harris - along with them is a tale of a lifetime of nightmares encapsulated into a few long hours.

It is told not in literary fashion, but as if Richard Picciotto were sitting in an easy chair across from the reader and discussing his day, both drinking mugs of beer and munching on pretzels. Except that his day was not like yours or mine. The reader is taken from the first step to the last, knowing that Richard and all the men with him but one survived, but still hanging on every word the man had to say. His conversational style moves the story right along to as satisfying a conclusion as could be wished for in the trying circumstances of that fateful day.

Picciotto takes advantage of his forum to chide New York City for cutting funds for what he considers badly needed but seldom used equipment. You champ along with his frustration for not having the proper tools for the job.

Definitely a book to be read. I have not seen Ground Zero. So at times, it has been hard to believe the attacks really happened. No more. Not after reading Last Man Down. Reality hit me hard in the face. And if that is not enough, there is a list of the 343 firefighters who died on that day in the front of the book. I took the time to read each and every name. Not because I thought I would know any of the men who belonged to those names, but to honor them with a moment's remembrance on my part.

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