These are the firefighters who go in when civilians or firemen are trapped; they are specialists with saws, torches, and climbing equipment. Every Rescue firefighter who responded to that first alarm at the World Trade Center Sept. 11 is lost.
But the last days of some of them have been captured on videotape, CBS News Correspondent Scott Pelley reports.
Over the last year, Tom Downey, a documentary filmmaker and son of a fireman, rode with Rescue 1 and Rescue 2, two of the five companies.
Out of Brooklyn, Rescue Co. 2 responded to a fire at the World Trade Center five months ago. At the time, Lincoln Quappe said of his colleagues, "Under the heat of battle, they are not shying away from anything they're right there."
Quappe was 38. He leaves behind his wife, Jane; an 8-year-old son, Clint; and a 5-year-old daughter, Natalie.
Captain Phil Ruvulo leads Rescue 2. He was off duty during the attack and followed his fallen men into battle. "We're always right where the action is," he said. "That's the mission statement: Make sure all the guys get out.
Rescue 2's truck had carried the firefighters into danger hundreds of times before. For example, there was an apartment fire last spring when someone was reportedly trapped inside.
That blaze prompted Quappe to talk about the dangers of getting lost while looking for victims in a fire.
"You get twisted around, it happens sometimes, " he said. "You listen for things. You listen for other members of the Rescue, for other members of the companies and you say I've got to work my way back this way.' And all along you're listening for victims, for the gurgling; you're listening for the breathing of a victim. Screams. Possibly the crying."
On another night, Kevin O'Rourke fell through a floor over the flames. He had that particular, nervous smile of a man who had cheated death.
"Floor gave way on the second floor, "he said. "Stepping into the hole, getting bigger. I ended up spread eagle holding onto the beams til the brothers were kind enough to pull me onto the solid floor."
Ruvulo said O'Rourke "was extremely aggressive, well decorated.
"And more than once would come out of a room, smoking. and I'd look at him and say, What are you doing?' He goes, I just wanna make the last room, Cap.'"
O'Rourke was found in a World Trade Center stairwell. He leaves behind his wife, Maryann, and two daughters, Corinne, 20, and Jamie, 17.
"The reason these losses are so grievous and so huge is that they lost a whole, almost a generation of guys who have proven themselves, who have worked through the toughest years here," said the filmmaker, whose uncle and cousins were Rescue firefighters.
Fire Chif Ray Downey, who commanded all the Rescue companies, was a national expert on rescue. He was there in the 1993 World Trade Center search and the rescue in Oklahoma City. On Sept. 11, when the planes struck, Downey went to lead his men. When the towers fell, he was leading the evacuation. Ray Downey has not been seen again.
Capt. Joe Downey and Lt. Chuck Downey are rescue firefighters in their father's special operations command. "I talked with some of the people that were with him," said Joe. "He went right up to the hotel; he ran into a few chiefs, telling them there were guys trapped in the hotel."
The elder Downey helped a colleague from Rescue 1 out of the rubble and into a waiting ambulance. He had watched the first tower coming down and still, he didn't leave.
"He had his Rescue companies, plus all the engines and trucks, " said Chuck. "He wasn't leaving."
Both men said they felt safe in a burning building with their dad. "His voice was very distinct in there," said one. "Everything was pretty muffled, but you knew, you knew Ray Downey's voice when he was in there and you know his guys were around him."
Downey hasn't been found yet; his sons search the rubble daily. "One of us is there every day."
There shouldn't have been 11 men on the Rescue Co. 1 truck that responded to the attack. But the planes hit during their shift change and both shifts jumped on board. Rescue 1 rolled out of the firehouse with twice the usual complement of men on board.
Mike Pena and Dave Marmonn could just picture them, jammed on the rig, fighting over gear. They were like a family, always there for one another.
"Because after us, nobody else is coming," Marmonn said.
Rescue 1 was never heard from again. Its truck is in the rubble and several of the men have been found in the stairwell of Tower Number One, the first tower hit and the last to collapse.
Dennis Mojica and Patrick O'Keefe, who were found in that stairwell, had responded to another kind of high-rise emergency just a few months before.
Window washers were dangling 500 feet in the air. Mojica decided he would take out a window and pull them in. He had a radio lowered to the window washers.
"Can you hear me out there?" he called. "What's your name? Jimmy? We're waiting for them to clear the street. Everybody OK? Need medical attention? Everybody OK? Anything hurt?"
One window washer responded, "Just our pride."
"Well, we can help you with that," Mojica said.
Pulling open the window is a risk that O'Keefe knows well.
"Lots of times there's wind," he said, "and it creates a negative pressure so when you loosen the glass it tends to pull you out or pull everything that's in the room. Kind of like an airplane, but not quite so dramatic."
The firemen were tethered in when they finally pull the window washers inside.
Mojica was 50 years old and soon to be married again. He leaves behind a 14-year-old daughter, Alex.
"In this business," he once said, "yu never can tell. It's what makes it so exciting. It can be a quiet day, quiet night or all hell can break loose and you can be running around for the rest of the day, rest of the night. "
O'Keefe leaves behind his wife, Karen; a 19-year-old daughter, Jennifer; and a son, Timmy, 14.
Mike Milner survived the World Trade Center attack because, like all rescue company survivors, he was off duty when the alarm came in.
In the firehouse that's home to Rescue 1, death comes but not often.
There are four memorials to fallen men: 1925, 1962, 1970, 1994. Each reads the same: He "who made the supreme sacrifice in the discharge of his duties, protecting life and property in the City of New York."
At Rescue 1, there will be 11 more plaques on the wall. At Rescue 2, there will be seven more, including one for Lincoln Quappe who described every fire as scary.
"You're a damned liar if you're not scared," he said on videotape. "It's hard to say, each fire is completely different. Some of the fires that seem the most small can be some of the most horrific fires . It can be a very small fire, a silly little stupid fire, that gets a guy killed. You know, it's just fate. It all comes down to fate."
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