Brooklyn homicide detective Vito Friscia was hurtled by fate into an extraordinary challenge during the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Heroism, however, comes with a price - emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Inspired by the courage and selflessness of her brother-in-law Friscia, director Maria Pusateri explores how his life has been dramatically altered and refocused following his daunting experiences with the disaster and recovery work. The film interweaves interviews, recollections and verite scenes from his life during the two years following the disaster.
Detective Friscia, was only a block away rushing to help in the rescue efforts, when the second tower collapsed and engulfed him in the treacherous cloud of debris. In the chaotic aftermath, he helped thousands leave the city and worked tirelessly sifting through toxic rubble, first at Ground Zero and then for seven months at the Staten Island Landfill. Having suffered the loss of friends and strangers, enduring both emotional trauma and respiratory illness, Vito finds that his life has taken on new meaning.
In addition to the support of his family and friends, a personal and vital "therapy" also helped Detective Friscia overcome his emotional trauma. As a dedicated coach, he's been guiding his daughter's team for the past eight years and considers the group of 11-year-olds all "his daughters." He credits their special relationship with preventing him from sinking into a deep depression.
After initially suffering months of respiratory and sinus infections during his recovery work, he continued to have lingering symptoms. Friscia would find himself short of breath when exercising, frequently had sinus ailments with congestion and cough, was often clearing his throat, and his voice was hoarse and never seemed to go back to normal. Although not ill enough to prevent him from working, he still is not as healthy as he once was prior to his exposures. Frustrated by his unwillingness to follow up on his own, Pusateri and his family try to convince him to get a full medical evaluation.
In the beginning of the film, a poignant gathering with his detective brothers shows their way of dealing with the horrific tragedy, as they recall their experiences with comedic release. It is later revealed that not only have many cops been suffering from respiratory problems, but also several, in their 30s, had been stricken down before their time from sudden heart attacks.
After suffering and shrugging off symptoms for more than two years, he finally gets a full medical screening. Having his sister-in-law following him around with a camera is sometimes awkward for the homicide detective, but he is someone we want to get to know. Eventually, Vito learns that even the doctors don't have all the answers. Though his health is compromised and there remains a possibility of more serious disease in his future, Vito claims he'd do it all again "100 times" if he thought he could save anyone or bring closure to the victims' families.
Vito After offers a window into the heart and mind of one everyday hero - while paying tribute to the countless others like him. It also points to the vital need for continued long-term medical evaluations and tracking of all recovery workers. What price they will pay for their bravery is a question that will remain unanswered for years to come.