Among the greatest tragedies of September 11th, 2001 is the loss of nearly 350 heroic firefighters. These men went into the fiery carcasses of the Twin Towers and did what they could to save those trapped in the buildings. Over ten percent of the life lost at the World Trade Center complex was the rescue workers who came to the scene to save the lives of those caught in the towering infernos that had came down shortly after two hijacked Boeing 767 jetliners slammed into the sides of the mighty giants. New York is a city a professional firefighters. They are men who live and breath the danger of firefighting and they are men who knew very well the dangers of climbing the burning stairwells to help complete strangers.
These brave men knew the buildings might collapse and they knew the dangers and impossibility of their mission more than anybody else, yet each and every one of them showed what a true hero is. The passengers of Flight 93 are considered heroes for fighting terrorists for control of the airplane that crashed only a few hours away from my home. They too are heroes, but it is the firefighters who should best be remembered for the lives they gave on the saddest day in American history. "New York Firefighters: The Brotherhood of 9/11" attempts to pay tribute to these men that lost their lives saving others. It succeeds in showing the heart and loss of these men, but also comes across as exploiting the suffering of the loved ones struggling to cope with lost ones.
Firefighters have homage paid to them and their courage on 9-11 by taking a look at Rescue Company #3 of the Bronx. Eight men donned their uniforms and boarded their rescue vehicle for the World Trade Center. When the day was over, only the truck returned. Not a single man of the eight survived. Their Lieutenant and those that were unable to answer the call of duty on that day recount their memories of those lost and through the surviving members of Rescue Company #3, the unity and fondness firefighters share for one another is explored and shown for all to see. On September 11th, each man that laced his boots was respected and loved like a brother. They left behind their own personal families and the family of firefighters they lived with for days at a time. Through the eyes of Rescue Company #3, you get an appreciation for what it is to be a fireman and the loss they suffered when the Twin Towers crumbled.
This Discovery Channel documentary was filmed only four months after the multitude of New York Fire Department firemen were taken from this world. The tear glands of family members have yet to dry and the men that worked closely with those that died are still coping with the loss. This is a touching documentary, but I could not help but feel sorrow for those interviewed because of the pain and suffering they were still feeling. Watching people break down and cry in front of a television camera is always sad. Seeing two families meet in the firehouse over dinner and discuss the fathers does bring a sense of sorrow over the loss of these men, but do the families really need to cry for a national audience for that audience to understand that the men were loved. They were brave and they were heroic. These men left behind families and life-long friends and those left behind are saddened for the remaining of their existence over the loss. I don't feel this was necessary. More time could have been spent giving the names of those lost, or recounting more stories from those that survived.
Regardless of my distaste for showing family suffering in a documentary that I feel should have spent more time honoring the firemen, "New York Firefighters" does a good job of establishing the special bond and brotherhood these men feel for each other. Tom Foley, a man who worked in the towers recounts his brining water to a group of firemen and helping them carry gear. He mentions they never left the Twin Towers. He honors them by detailing the sacrifice they made and talks of how they were normal guys he would drink a beer with. This is the type of emotion that would have paid better tribute to the brave men who died saving others.
Shown in 1.33:1 full screen, "New York Firefighters: The Brotherhood of 9/11" features some haunting footage from the events of September 11th, as well as some very nice footage of the surviving members of Rescue Company #3. The stock footage varies in degree of quality. Some of it was home video footage, while other footage combated the dust and heat of the horrific fall of the World Trade Center. Newer interview footage with the firefighters and their families was pristine and clear. There were scattered moments of digital compression and film grain, but when watching a documentary, I'm not looking for a ‘9' or ‘10' video presentation. The entire reasoning for viewing this is for the sorrowing content and it does fine in showing what it has to say.
"New York Firefighters" is provided with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio mix. The sound is very clear and not as flat as I would have expected after viewing "World Trade Center: Anatomy of the Collapse." There were moments in this documentary when stereo imaging of the crowds or street life was very noticeable. The whailing of the fire trucks sirens came across loud and clear. Granted, this is essentially a stereo mix and it does not feature the liveliness that a feature film would possess, but for a documentary, it does sound very good. I didn't point this out in the body of my review, but one notable scene to watch that focuses on sound is a scene that describes the beepers firemen wear that lets others know they are no longer moving. It is a sad moment.
The disc is broken down into ten chapters and Chapter Selection is provided for quick reference.
I did like "New York Firefighters," but felt it could have avoided including the families of those lost. The subtitle of the documentary is "The Brotherhood of 9/11." Why did the documentary crew not spend time with Rescue Company #2 or Rescue Company #4? It would have been more pertinent to hear the views of other fire companies discuss their experiences with those lost of Rescue Company #1. More information could have been given on the involvement the firefighters had with Emergency Day. It is certainly heartfelt to see the tears of those who lost their loved ones, but it was not necessary in honoring the firemen. More time should have been spent with the firemen. Still, this is a good feature on the firemen. I know a few people that laugh at volunteer firemen in my hometown. Maybe something like this will allow them to appreciate what a firefighter faces and let them realize the danger and risks their New York brethren stared down on September 11, 2001.