Former NYPD officer and 9/11 survivor confronts losing firefighter brother in World Trade Center attacks

Cammarata Mug

"This book absolutely was a vehicle for my recovery; putting your emotions on paper and opening up your soul is a great way to heal.”

– Joseph M. Cammarata, author, Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble

As he raced toward the World Trade Center aboard a Manhattan-bound ferry on the morning of September 11, 2001, Joseph M. Cammarata vividly remembers watching the South Tower fall, knowing that his younger brother Michael was inside.

In the days following Michael’s death, the Cammarata family found a handwritten note that he had left in his bedside table drawer. It was titled “If Anything Ever Happens To Me,” with one of the directives being “Make My Spirit Live On.”

And so, for the past nine years, Cammarata has dedicated himself to making his brother’s spirit live on. He became a firefighter (and has since retired from the department), he established a charity in Michael’s name and he rallied to have the street they grew up on renamed in memory of Michael. But Cammarata says the most important way in which he has honored his brother’s memory is with the book Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble.

Michael Cammarata Memorial

A memorial in the Cammarata home for Michael, Joseph's brother and the inspiration for his book.

“Writing this book helped keep his name alive and helped me heal as a person,” Cammarata said.

Because he wanted to maintain control of the entire process, Cammarata decided to self publish the book, and he said he chose AuthorHouse “because of the positive reputation.”

“I was very happy with the outcome,” he said.

The book not only recounts the events of 9/11 and the emotional struggles Cammarata faced in the years following, but also details both brothers’ quest to become NYC firefighters.

“My earliest memories of Michael were when we were two and three years old, dressing up as firefighters from head to toe, including fire engine underwear, I kid you not,” he writes in the book.

Though Cammarata said it only took him about 90 days to get the book onto paper, he points out that it took him much longer to be able to face the emotions he had bottled up for the better part of the last decade. Face of Courage:Rise from the Rubble was Cammarata’s way to begin rising from the emotional rubble under which he was buried.

“What separates my book from other 9/11 books is the truly personal aspect of it … How I had to live the better part of the last decade with survivor’s guilt. How I have visited the darkest places anyone can ever visit, and be held there for many years. And how I was able to recover,” said Cammarata. “Anyone who has been in a real bad place in life can relate to this book. You are not in this alone. You can recover.”

And Cammarata said he is now in the organizational phases of a second book, which will be a work of fiction.

“We are slowly recovering–one day at a time,” Cammarata said of his family. “We are all works in progress. We see a reflection of hope.”

Note: Photographs used with the permission of Joseph M. Cammarata. To view more photos or to find out more about the author, visit his website