Famous for his iconic roles, he has some of the most memorable characteristics in Hollywood. You know you’ve seen him in some of your favorite films and on television before, but even though he’s a familiar face, a lot of people wouldn’t be able to recall his name if asked. They also wouldn’t know that this Reservoir Dogs character was once a New York City Firefighter in his younger years.
When Steve Buscemi was 18-years-old, he completed the FDNY civil service test, and in 1980 joined the bravest of the brave in the city that never sleeps.
For the next four years, he served as a firefighter on Engine Co. 55 in Manhattan — later deciding to leave the firehouse to act, write and direct.
But it wasn’t his longing to return to extinguishing fires or mitigating chemical spills that brought him back to Little Italy. It was the 9/11 tragedy.
The day after the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, Buscemi showed up at the firehouse to volunteer. For the next few days, he worked arduous shifts alongside fellow firefighters searching through the rubble at Ground Zero for survivors.
The reason you may not have known of the role he played is because there aren’t very many photos of his heroic acts. Unlike so many celebrities always seeking praise for their good deeds, Buscemi wasn’t there for the publicity. He declined the majority of photographs and interviews that were requested.
He later explained to the public:
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.
Following the part he played in the rescues, he also gave a speech at a union rally to support higher wages for firefighters, which ended up getting him arrested.