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Dennis Smith photo credit: Mike Leddy, courtesy of Sunday GazetteDENNIS SMITH

NYS Writers Institute,
September 17, 2002

4:15 p.m. Seminar | Assembly Hall, CC, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading |Page Hall, 135 Western Ave

Introduction by Captain Gary Favro
President, Troy Firefighters Union

Retired New York City firefighter and bestselling writer Dennis Smith volunteered to help with rescue efforts shortly after the jets hit the towers at the World Trade Center. An 18-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, and Founding editor of Firehouse Magazine, Smith arrived to find that many of New York's elite fire squads and many of his close friends were buried beneath the rubble. In the hours, days and weeks that followed, Smith participated in the search for survivors, recording his own observations as well as the stories and experiences of his fellow rescue workers.

Report From Ground ZeroHis journals and interviews provide the basis of his new book, Report From Ground Zero: The Story of the Rescue Efforts at the World Trade Center (2002). The first half of the book is an oral history of the event comprised of first-person accounts by rescue workers who were at the scene. The second half is composed of Smith's journal entries and subsequent reflections.

"Smith has captured the horror and chaos of those first terrifying hours, and the ensuing anger and grief and determination." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

An ABC Documentary, Report From Ground Zero aired Tuesday, September 10, 2002 (9:00 p.m. on WTEN-10). Based on Dennis Smith's report, this stirring documentary features interviews with firefighters who survived despite being in the north tower when it collapsed. These men, sometimes hauling 90 pounds of gear, never faltered. Neither did those who did not make it out. As their widows talk, though, there isn't a hint of bitterness; their husbands died doing what they believed in. Smith, who spent 50 days sifting through rubble in the pit, says the documentary gives viewers a better understanding of firefighters, "Once you meet them, you will gain new confidence in the future of America because you will see the strength, not only the strength of their resolve, but the strength of character."

Dennis Smith Seminar, Assembly Hall, CC, (photo credit: Judy Axenson)Smith's writing career began with a letter he sent to the New York Times in the early 1970s describing the typical experiences of a New York City firefighter. As a result of that letter, Smith was featured in a New Yorker interview. Shortly thereafter, he received a publisher's advance which led to the bestselling 1972 book, Report from Engine Co. 82, an account of his daily life on the job with New York City's busiest fire company. Explaining why the book sold a million and a half copies, Anatole Broyard said Dennis Smith

"articulates the terror of fire, the feeling of holocaust or hell that every fireman faces. Above all, he reminds us that satisfaction, even heroism, in public service still exists." - New York Times

Smith's other nonfiction books about firefighting include Firehouse (1977), Dennis Smith's History of Firefighting in America: 300 Years of Courage (1978), Dennis Smith's Fire Safety Book: Everything You Need to Know to Save Your Own Life (1982) and Firefighters: Their Lives in Their Own Words (1988).

In 1999, Smith published a memoir, A Song for Mary: An Irish American Memory a lyrical memoir of growing up Irish Catholic in a tenement in Manhattan. Raised by a strict Irish immigrant mother while his father languished in an upstate insane asylum, Smith became a young hellraiser who developed a drug habit and had frequent run-ins with the law. Kirkus Reviews called the book "an absorbing memoir that vividly re-creates the pains and joys of an impoverished Irish-American boyhood." Frank McCourt called it, "a book you won't want to put down."

Smith is also the author of three novels about firefighters, The Final Fire (1975), Glitter and Ash (1980) and Steely Blue (1984).

"Smith's smart, funny, fast-paced tale reminds you what a pleasure it is to root for the good guys." - Newsweek on Glitter and Ash

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be contributed by the author and publisher to the Foundation for American Firefighters.


Books by Dennis Smith

A Song for MaryReport from Ground ZeroReport from Engine CO. 82

 


Additional Links:
Firehouse.com Magazine Article
Daily Gazette Article

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.