Book Talk -- Ordinary Heroes: A Memoir of 9/11


Monday, October 4, 2021, 4:00pm to 5:00pm


Virtual event, registration required

You are invited to a virtual book talk with Ash Center Senior Fellow and HKS Executive Education instructor Joe Pfeifer (MC/MPA 2008), author of the recently published New York Times BestsellerOrdinary Heroes: A Memoir of 9/11. The book serves as an intimate memoir by Pfeifer, the first FDNY chief to respond to the 9/11 attacks, and a tribute to those who died that others might live. Juliette Kayyem, Belfer Senior Lecturer in International Security at HKS, will moderate the discussion.

About the Book

Ordinary Heroes is the unforgettable and intimate account of what Joe 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.

About the Author

Joe Pfeifer is a Senior Fellow with the Program on Crisis Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and teaches in several of its Executive Education programs, including Leadership in Crises, the General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar, Leadership in Homeland Security, and China Crisis Management. Pfeifer was the Chief of Counterterrorism and Emergency Preparedness for the New York Fire Department (FDNY) before retiring in July 2018. 

During his career he commanded some of the largest fires and emergencies in New York City’s history: he was the first chief on scene at the World Trade Center attack on the morning of September 11, 2001, played a major command role during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, served as an Incident Commander at the Metro North commuter train derailment in 2013, and assisted in developing the Ebola response in NYC in 2014.

Pfeifer is the founding director of the FDNY’s Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness. He served as a strategic leader assessing the Department’s response performance, identified new budget and policy priorities, helped overhaul management practices, created partnerships to supplement the Department’s existing competencies with new expertise, shaped new technologies for emergency response, and developed the FDNY’s first Strategic Plan, Terrorism Preparedness Strategy, and Continuity of Operations Plan.

Virtual Event Recording