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'9/11: The Firemen's Story' review

"9/11: The Firemen's Story" airs on National Geographic. Credit: FEMA News / Andrea Booher

THE DOCUMENTARY "9/11: The Firemen's Story"

WHEN | WHERE Saturday at 10 p.m. on National Geographic Channel

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Long Islanders figure prominently in this film told from the FDNY perspective, with interviews of Debbie Palmer -- widow of Orio Palmer, a battalion chief who lived in Valley Stream and who led a team to the 78th floor of the South Tower -- and John Vigiano Sr., former captain, who lost two sons, John Vigiano II, of West Islip, with Ladder Company 132 in Brooklyn, and Joseph, of Medford, an NYPD detective with an emergency services unit in Harlem.

Historical perspective offered here says the FDNY attacked the infernos with an aggression that was part of the culture of the department -- and which would lead to tragic consequences; and also argues that the failure of the NYPD to alert firemen in the North Tower to imminent danger of collapse was borne of an old grudge between both departments.

Testimonials include those from relatives of Rescue Unit Three's Tommy Foley, an FDNY celebrity before 9/11 (People magazine had named him a most eligible bachelor); and Louie Cacchioli, of Engine Company 47, who has contributed to other 9/11 memorials. A former World Trade Center office worker, Marvin Pickrum, offers among the most heartfelt tributes: "Those guys were angels that day." In all, 343 FDNY members perished on 9/11.

MY SAY John Vigiano Sr. breaks down toward the end of this film, and you are left to wonder how many hundreds of times he's done this over the intervening years. For most of the media, Tuesday marks the 11th anniversary of 9/11. But for Vigiano and thousands of others, it's that day again -- the one they've lived with every waking moment since. This film does a good job of telling the FDNY story albeit confined to 44 minutes, hardly a complete one.

But at least it remembers the sacrifice and that's something the rest of us should do as well. Watch Vigiano and try not to remember.

BOTTOM LINE A good but incomplete documentary on the worst day -- by far -- in FDNY history.




Other 9/11 programming


* "9/11 Emergency Room" (Saturday at 8 p.m., TLC) -- Documentary tracks the events of paramedics, doctors, nurses and survivors unaware their lives were about to change forever.

* "9/11: Voices From the Air" (Sunday at 10 p.m., National Geographic) -- The story of the attacks through recordings and personal testimony.

* "The 9/11 Surfer" (Tuesday, 8 p.m., Discovery) -- Tale of a 22nd-story survivor who rode falling debris to safety.

* And of course there's live "9/11 Remembrance Coverage" (Tuesday, from 8 a.m.-noon, WNYW/5, WWOR/9, WPIX/11; 8:30 a.m.-noon, WNBC/4). Plus, check Tuesday listings for lots of documentary encores on History, H2, Military and Smithsonian.

-- Diane Werts


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