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Series shows firefighters before disaster

From Michael Okwu
CNN New York Bureau

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Last summer, producers of a syndicated reality TV show harnessed cameras to several firemen to document their exploits.

In the end, "The Bravest" would capture images of some of the last blazes the men battled, and some final reflections about their professions.

Some of the firefighters were among the first units that responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center -- Manhattan's Rescue 1 and Brooklyn's Rescue 2 -- which lost 18 men that morning.

Daniel Libretti was one of them.

"Just when you feel confident in yourself, this job has a way of humbling you," he says on "The Bravest." "Just when you think you know what you're doing, you get a curve ball thrown at you."

Russell Best, the series' creator, calls the firefighters "the bravest people you could ever imagine meeting."

Rescues 1 and 2 are elite units, specifically trained to save lives in the most dire circumstances, and to rescue other firefighters.

"These guys are like -- they want the high rise, you know, fires. That's the adrenaline rush. They want to get in there and save people, so we knew that they were down there," Best said.

For all the carnage, more than 25,000 people escaped from the twin towers. Eyewitnesses tell stories about firefighters returning into the building to save more lives, going to hell and back.

"I really believe that if they sent them to hell they would put it out," Best said. "The World Trade Center collapse was worse than hell."

And still, Joseph Angelini may have gone back.

At 63, Angelini was the oldest active member of the fire department. He had been cited for bravery 14 times. People who spent time with him called him a man of few words, loved by his colleagues, and fueled by an unwavering desire to save people.

"My son Joe is over at Ladder 4, which is in the theater district and we catch fires sometimes together, which is a good thing and it's fun," he told "The Bravest."

Now, Joseph Sr. is dead, and Joseph Jr. is missing.

"Watching tape of firefighters who are no longer with us is painful," Best said, "and watching tape of firefighters who are still with us is painful, because they are in agony."


• The Bravest

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