• Ordinary Heroes

  • A Memoir of 9/11
  • By: Joseph Pfeifer
  • Narrated by: Fred Sanders
  • Length: 7 hrs and 46 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (156 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller

From the first FDNY chief to respond to the 9/11 attacks, an intimate memoir and a tribute to those who died that others might live

When Chief Joe Pfeifer led his firefighters to investigate an odor of gas in downtown Manhattan on the morning of 9/11, he had no idea that his life was about to change forever. A few moments later, he watched as the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Pfeifer, the closest FDNY chief to the scene, spearheaded rescue efforts on one of the darkest days in American history.

Ordinary Heroes is the unforgettable and intimate account of what Chief Pfeifer witnessed at Ground Zero, on that day and the days that followed. Through his eyes, we see the horror of the attack and the courage of the firefighters who ran into the burning towers to save others. We see him send his own brother up the stairs of the North Tower, never to return. And we walk with him and his fellow firefighters through weeks of rescue efforts and months of numbing grief, as they wrestle with the real meaning of heroism and leadership.

This gripping narrative gives way to resiliency and a determination that permanently reshapes Pfeifer, his fellow firefighters, NYC, and America. Ordinary Heroes takes us on a journey that turns traumatic memories into hope, so we can make good on our promise to never forget 9/11.

©2021 Joseph Pfeifer (P)2021 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

Ordinary Heroes is clear-eyed, spellbinding, extraordinary.” (Vanity Fair

"Pfeifer’s record of that day and its aftermath surely enters the canon as one of the necessary documents of 9/11. But it’s his inclusive sense of public service, one that values the heroism of those who do ordinary things in extraordinary times, that makes Ordinary Heroes a book for today. (The New York Times)

"With great humility, Chief Pfeifer has crafted a moving story of how the FDNY was anything but ordinary in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack this country has ever seen. An incredible picture of the resilience, humor, and heart of New York’s bravest." (Jon Stewart)

What listeners say about Ordinary Heroes

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An amazing account

listened to the book in almost 1 sitting. If you're an FDNY buff or looking for a first hand account of 911 thus is the book

6 people found this helpful

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A must read for any current or aspiring leader!

You don't have to be in Public Safety (Fire, Police, EMS or Military) to appreciate, understand and/or apply the lessons described in this book. The career of Chief Pfeifer spanning 5 decades provides an intertwined perspective of leadership, family balance, education and the tragedy of 9-11. This book along with the challenges and successes of the Chief's career, is first class.

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Amazing Book

This was a great book. Shortly after starting to listen to this book. I came across 9/11, fifteen years later. It was the French brothers documentary of the footage that Tuesday morning. I recommend watching this first before the book. It gives you a great insight into that morning and putting names with faces.

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great boom

This brought back so many memories of working the pile but at the same time really showed all of the behind the scenes things that went on and how the work kept going on after the clean up.

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Fastest I’ve ever gone though an audiobook.

This is the first book I have ever left a review on. I can’t begin to tell you all the emotions felt during this book. My father was an FDNY firefighter who thankfully made it out alive that day. One his best friends unfortunately did not. There’s a point in the book where Chief Pfeifer tells President Bush, “We can’t find my brother sir.” It really hit hard. Although the Chief was talking about his actual brother, I’m sure every surviving firefighter felt that way about all their brothers lost. The chief did an amazing job of telling this story. The narrator was the perfect person to read it aloud. You won’t regret listening. 343, 23, 37. RIP.

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An intensely detailed and emotional account

The author takes the reader by the hand through the WTC attacks in amazing detail with rigorous explanations of the following events and how it impacted emergency responses. He also dives into critical elements of crisis leadership. This book should be mandatory reading for first responders

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  • KM
  • 09-15-21

Thank you

Thank you to Chief Pfeiffer and first responders for your bravery and dedication to helping others without thoughts of yourself. Like many Americans, I remember very well where I was on 9/11/2001. Chief Pfeiffer’s narrative and recall of those events is gripping. There is a natural cadence to the story and I found myself mesmerized. I didn’t want to stop listening. I highly highly recommend this book for everyone!!! The lessons he learned from his years of survive and the impact he and others have made on improving emergency response is impressive.

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Stay for the hope

An extraordinary book!! Walks through, in great detail, the events of 9/11. I thought it might be difficult to listen to; however, along with stories of Chief Pfeifer’s life, the importance of action taken after 9/11 is also discussed in great detail, giving hope of the ability to save more lives in the next crisis; as evidenced by specific incidents given. Also, the help given to firefighters and families, that continues today. Thank you for your continued service and your goal of growing in spite of the sacrifices. Great, great read!!!

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Amazing Memoir!

A memoir replete with leadership and life lessons. Terrific companion to the Naudet film documentary. A moving and informative read documenting the behind the scenes machinations, failures, successes, and organizational growth of the FDNY and other first-responder factions. Simultaneously heart wrenching and warming, this memoir imparts a strong faith in humanity and triumph over tragedy.

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good

this goes along with the Documentory 9/11. Chief is a legend throughout US. Book for the public

1 person found this helpful

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  • ripster
  • 11-29-21

9/11

If you have already watched the 9/11 documentary this adds nothing new i was hoping to hear more of insight from chief Pfiefer about September 11th but he virtually quotes whats in the documentary thats why I've only gave 3 stars

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  • Jeannine
  • 11-08-21

Great story from a true hero.

I am interested in 9/11 and have visited New York to see the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the waterfalls in the footprints of the twin towers. It's very moving seeing all those names on the memorial and really brings home the number of people who died that day. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the events of 9/11. It is wonderfully written by Chief Pfeifer. A true hero. God bless all those who died on that day. You will never be forgotten.

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  • scott turner
  • 11-07-21

First chief to arrive at wtc

From a gas leak to the biggest fire of his career Joseph takes you through what began as a normal sunny September morning to losing his brother in the North tower collapse and the aftermath of that day riveting from start to finish

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  • Lynda Craik
  • 10-17-21

a moving un politcal/conspiracy account exceptiona

Joseph Pfeifer clearly did not go into the clergy as God needed him to be there on 9/11 and after to do the amazing work he has done without him , change would not have happened this account is so moving and truthful and inspiring from a man who almost sounds like the most humble hero ever .

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  • sham58
  • 10-14-21

Great Story

Well written and narrated only fault ,what happened to the brothers and Tony ?? Never fully finished their stories

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  • Mark
  • 10-10-21

Disappointing

This book is 90% based on the French brothers documentary available online. This book doesn't add much of that tragic event that is not already known and documented. I was expecting to learn more about the events of that day and beyond from a new perspective. Unfortunately, a one to miss.

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  • PaulC6230
  • 10-08-21

What A Story

This was an amazing account from Joe Pfeifer who was just one of the firefighters who witnessed the first flight hitting the World Trade Centre.

The story tells you how ranks are based and how firehouses are run etc but the majority of the audiobook is his story of bravery and sadness of what he witnessed and went through that day and the days after searching Ground Zero and months later.

Highly recommend if you want an insiders view of inside the towers during the terrorist attacks. RIP to everyone who death was due by the attacks.

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  • Jem
  • 09-27-21

The most moving story I have heard

I was in tears from start to finish, the most moving story from one of the most devastating events in my life time! They shall never be forgotten each and every victim that was murdered that day....

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-26-21

unreal listen...#343

unreal I felt I was apart of this day.Very good listen highly recommended..I have and have always had so much respect for Fdny

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  • Laura fairlie
  • 09-22-21

A wonderful insight

This book captures the essence of the men lost on 9/11- Chief Pfeifer js a remarkable man. Huge respect. Thank you for your service.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-09-21

Well written account of 9/11 WTC

A raw and in-depth account from the first chief at WTC disaster- must read !

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew Roberts
  • 12-21-21

Never Forget The 343

A must read for everyone but especially for first responder and those who are inspiring to become a leader.

Unbelievable Accounts of 9/11 from the FDNY.

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  • Fiona Gregory
  • 09-16-21

The Kind of Guy You Want Leading a Crisis Response.


“I realise that without action there is no hope. And without hope there is no leadership. The heart of crisis leadership is the ability to sustain hope by unifying efforts to solve complex problems in the face of great tragedy.” Chief Joseph Pfeifer

The Battalion One Chief is memorable for his calm demeanour in the 9/11 Naudet brothers’ documentary. He was extraordinarily placed that crisp morning - not just because he saw the hijacked AA 11 hit the North WTC, his decisive response or the proximity of his firehouse to the site - but Joe had a particular set of skills that he’d accumulated personally.

He has since dedicated his career to improve many aspects of the FDNY including terror response protocols and cooperation among first responder agencies.

This is not just a recount of that fateful day and the months after, but it touches on the structure and protocols of the FDNY, Pfeifer’s back story and his family, the community of the FDNY, the terrible death toll from 9/11 dust, subsequent disaster responses and many other aspects that keep the reader engaged.