PERSONAL: Male. Education: Princeton University, B.A.
CAREER: Writer and documentary filmmaker, including work for Soros Foundation; taught at film school in Singapore.
(And executive producer) Still Riding: Rescue Company New York City (documentary film), The Learning Channel, 2002.
The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse, Henry Holt and Co. (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times Magazine.
SIDELIGHTS: The son and nephew of firefighters, Tom Downey has an intimate familiarity with the pressures and outlook of the men and women who fight fires throughout New York City. Through the good offices of his uncle, Chief Ray Downey, the most decorated firefighter in New York's history, he was able to spend a year with the elite Rescue Company 2, which is responsible for rescuing other firefighters from particularly dangerous situations. Sadly, Chief Downey was killed during the tragedies of September 11. A year later, Tom Downey aired a documentary on the company, Still Riding: Rescue Company New York City, then continued his research on the members of Company 2.
In addition to his film, Downey produced a book commemorating the efforts of the elite rescue company. The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse is "a powerful tribute to the men whose daily lives are the stuff of heroism," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Downey chronicles the camaraderie and the banter, but also the hazing and competitiveness, of men who know they must be able to perform together in the most dangerous situations. He also provides insights into the family members who know that their loved ones risk their lives every day, and that any day could be their last. "Limning individual personalities and capturing the company's camaraderie with amusing anecdotes, Downey's descriptions burn into the pages with searing intensity," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2004, George Cohen, review of The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse, p. 1528.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2004, review of The Last Men Out, p. 373.
Library Journal, June 1, 2004, Edwin B. Burgess, review of The Last Men Out, p. 162.
New York Times, January 9, 2004, Tom Downey, "Hazing and Heroism."
Publishers Weekly, May 3, 2004, review of The Last Men Out, p. 181.
Last Men Out Web site, http://www.lastmenout.com/ (December 14, 2004).