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'I Only Knew What was in Front of Me': the WTC In Their Own Words


   Based on his years in the fire service, Firehouse Magazine's editor in chief, Harvey Eisner, knew the firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 would need to talk about their experiences.

   In November of that year, Eisner began interviewing firefighters from many different stations, asking for their stories. The result of more than 100 interviews is WTC: In Their Own Words, a collector's edition in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

   As the number of interviews grew, Eisner began writing in a notebook names, numbers and fire companies, and how each firefighter was involved.

   "We wanted to do a book many times over the last 10 years, but it just didn't work out," he says.

   In December 2010, he got out the notebook and began tracking down some of the people he'd interviewed, and ended up with about 40 new interviews.

   "We tried to get stories from people who operated in different areas at different times and doing different things on 9/11," Eisner says. "That day, a person who was operating on the north side of a site didn't know what was going on on the south side. People who were at the scene have read some of the stories and said, ‘I didn't know that.' Several of them told me, ‘I could only concentrate on the two square inches right in front of me. It didn't matter what was going on 5 feet to my right, half a block away or in another building. I only knew what was in front of me.' Many of the firefighters told me they had never told their stories to anyone.

   "One of the main reasons for the book is to document history," Eisner adds. "So 30 or 100 years from now people will have at least a partial glimpse at what happened. It's not a tell-all book of everything. It's a small look at what some of the fire service members did that day."

   The 276-page publication contains around 250 photos and comes with a 52-minute DVD, The Battle Continues, which includes video and radio traffic from the event.

   "The book provides the history of the area before the World Trade Center buildings were built, as well as information about the planes: how many passengers were on them, how much fuel they were carrying, how fast they were going when they struck the buildings and what damage was done," says Eisner. "We included maps of the buildings in the area, locations of firehouses and names of the firefighters who responded."

   A portion of the proceeds from book sales will benefit four firefighter-support organizations: the FDNY Foundation, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA Elsasser Fund) and the Wounded Warrior Project. The book is also available through some fire service bookstores. For more information, go to

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