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Picks and Pans Review: Firehouse

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By David Halberstam

On a Monday night, firefighter Michael Lynch spoke to his fiancée about getting their wedding invitations out on time. They never spoke again. The next day, Sept. 11, he was one of 13 firemen who rushed from the Engine 40 Ladder 35 firehouse on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to the World Trade Center. Only one man came back.

In this sober and inspiring account, Pulitzer Prize-winner Halberstam shares stories of the lives of the lost men. The tragedy of that cataclysmic day is almost boundless, but by focusing on one firehouse, Halberstam reduces it to a personal scale of dreams, fears and jokes. Michael D’Auria, the unit’s best cook, promised to teach the team the five basic sauces. Steve Mercado could do a note-perfect imitation of any of his colleagues. Kevin Bracken came back from each blaze with the same report: “It was hot, it was smoky, and we put it out.” Vincent Morello, a former department mechanic, took a 50 percent pay cut to do the job he loved. Halberstam’s achievement is in remembering these men not just for how they died but for how they lived. (Hyperion, S22.95)

Bottom Line: A poignant remembrance