Firefighter 'Rarely Ever Had a Bad Day'

By Nick Iyer

November 13, 2001

Not even winning the lottery would have kept John Florio of Oceanside from being a firefighter.

"He loved his job," his wife, Shari, said. And he loved the brotherhood he shared with the firefighters in his company. "He always went to work with a smile, and rarely ever had a bad day," his wife said.

His wife last heard from her husband at 8:10a.m. on Sept. 11. "I joked with him about stealing my son's lunch money, but we got off the phone on a happy note," she said. "I'm really glad for that."

Florio was born in Middle Village in 1967. He graduated from St. Francis Preparatory High School in Fresh Meadows in 1985, his wife said. Florio attended Nassau Community College for a few years before taking the fire department test. "It took them a couple of years before [the fire department] called him back," his wife said. "He was so excited when they finally did."

The couple, both working parents, managed their schedules so that one of them would be able to tend to their children, Michael, 7, and Kylie, 2, while the other worked.

Florio, 33, wasn't supposed to be on duty Sept.11, his wife said. "He hasn't worked a Tuesday in almost three years," she said. But Florio switched shifts with another firefighter, and was deployed along with his company, Engine 214, Ladder 111 of Brooklyn, to the World Trade Center.

Now, with the loss of her husband and her children's loss of a father, Shari Florio struggles through her days. "I'm just taking everything day by day," she said. "Actually, I'm taking things hour by hour."

She said her husband was her son's "right arm," and vice versa. Florio coached his son's Little League team, as well as his football team, the East Rockaway Raiders. Michael sometimes pines for his father, Shari said, but he "is a strong kid," and "is doing better," she said.

An avid fan of the rock group Metallica, Florio used to listen to the heavy metal band while working out. (His wife estimated he could bench press about 335 pounds.) At Florio's funeral, a letter written by Metallica lead singer James Hetfield was read. The two men had known each other through letters, and Shari said she had spoken to Hetfield several times on the phone.

"It was a very deep and emotional letter," she said.

Florio's best friend, Ed Lawrence of Hauppauge, said the two had known each other since they were in diapers. He described his friend as being "like a fire hydrant. He wasn't really tall or anything, but he was all muscle."

Lawrence said losing his friend, whose body was recovered Oct. 26, was like losing a brother. "He was always there," he said, "to rely and depend on."