FDNY. These letters were ubiquitous after September 11 on memorials, t-shirts, hats, government officials, athletes, street vendors, and regular New Yorkers alike. Now they are on at least a dozen books, all published since the department lost 343 of its members.
"Fighting fire in New York City has always been one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.", writes Terry Golway in So Others Might Live: A History Of New York's Bravest: The FDNY From 1700 To The Present. "Yet from the city's earliest days, New Yorkers have wanted to be firefighters, and even today the list of men and women waiting to take the firefighters' exam numbers in the thousands."
Spectacular fires have played a huge role in New York City history. Much like the explosion of coverage following September 11, New York's penny press was spurred to innovative heights after the 1835 fire in the financial district. The Sun published a morning edition of 23,000 and an "extra" of 30,000, to break existing circulation records. The Herald used illustrations for the first time, showing a map of the destruction and the remains of the Merchant's Exchange. Yet curiously, until now books about the New York Fire Department and its history have been rare.
Today's books recount not only the spectacular fires of New York's history - the 1835 burning of the financial district, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, and the arson for profit rampage that terrorized the Bronx in the 1970's - but also the false alarm in 1851 at Public School 26 which led to doors in public buildings leading out, tenement laws that mandated fire escapes, and the hostility towards women and blacks in the department's history. They explore the everyday lives of fire chiefs and firefighters alike, and capture the events of September 11th from their perspective, with photos, personal tales and eye-witness accounts.