Embedded Player Former fire commissioner of New York City, Thomas Von Essen. He led the department through the Sept. 11 attacks and during rescue and early recovery efforts. During the attacks, the department lost 343 men, many of them Von Essen's friends and colleagues. Von Essen stepped down as fire commissioner on December 31, 2001. He's written a new memoir with Matt Murray, Strong of Heart: Life and Death in the Fire Department of New York.