Steve Buscemi, Unsung Hero Of September 11

Long before he rose to critical acclaim in a number of high-profile acting roles, Steve Buscemi was a New York City firefighter, part of a brotherhood to which he returned in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, when he helped dig survivors out of the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Fans know Buscemi from his roles in Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, and Boardwalk Empire, but what many aren’t aware of is that the actor with a one-in-a-million face once was an FDNY firefighter in downtown Manhattan. As Uproxx points out, Buscemi’s devotion to his brothers has never faded, and in 2013, the Brotherhood of Fire revealed on their Facebook page another little known fact about the actor. In the hours following the September 11 attacks, and with no fanfare or publicity, Steve Buscemi returned to the fold, working 12 hour shifts to help rescue his fellow firefighters.

“In 1980 Steve Buscemi became a New York City Firefighter,” the post read. “For four years, Buscemi served on one of FDNY’s busiest, Engine Co. 55 in Manhattan’s Little Italy. He later left the fire service to become a successful actor, writer and director.”

“After 9/11/2001… Brother Buscemi returned to FDNY Engine 55.

“On September 12, 2001 and for several days following Brother Steve worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters digging and sifting through the rubble from the World Trade Center looking for survivors.

“Very few photographs and no interviews exist because he declined them. He wasn’t there for the publicity.”

Buscemi’s support of his fellow firefighters didn’t end there, however. In 2003, he gave a speech supporting higher wages for firefighters, and was arrested along with his brothers at a union rally. In 2012, he repeated his September 11 act, when he joined his fellow firefighters to assist in the clean-up efforts following Superstorm Sandy, again with no media fanfare.

Following the September 11 attacks, when asked about his contribution, Buscemi noted that the effort helped him process the devastation, as Good magazine points out.

“It was a privilege to be able to do it. It was great to connect with the firehouse I used to work with and with some of the guys I worked alongside. And it was enormously helpful for me because while I was working, I didn’t really think about it as much, feel it as much.”

In 2014, he also hosted an HBO documentary, A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at life in firehouses. The production also gave Steve Buscemi a chance to highlight Engine Co. 55, in which he once served.

[Photo by Grant Lamos IV / Getty Images]