A Pushover for the Kids, A Firehouse Brother
October 4, 2001

Deborah Amato always used to wonder why her husband was such a stickler for attending wakes and funerals and fund-raisers for the widows and children of fallen city Fire Department members.

That was before she became a widow herself, before the Sept. 11 attack that claimed Squad No. 1 Capt. James Amato of Lake Ronkonkoma, before the funeral service Friday that drew more than 1,000 mourners from firehouses as far away as Florida and California.

"I look at it in a different view, that's for sure," she said Monday, as she rested upstairs in a house full of visitors. "He always just went. Now I look at it, it was a commitment, a brotherhood at the firehouse. He was very passionate about his job."

Amato, 43, an Oakdale native who attended Connetquot High School, always talked about life at his Park Slope firehouse, and couldn't wait to get back from family vacations so that he could return to the "place where he felt tranquil," his wife said.

But at home, he was a pushover for his children: Sean, 21, Tara, 14, Katherine, 13, and Ashley, 8, spending every moment he could with them.

As Jehovah's Witnesses, Amato and his wife also dedicated many hours on days off to preaching their faith, and church members have rallied around the family in recent days.

Deborah Amato was sorting the mail Sept. 11 when someone phoned to say a plane had struck the trade center. She didn't think he'd be involved because he worked in a different borough.

As evening fell, though, after a day spent trying to get through to the firehouse, "I knew something was wrong, because he hadn't called me."--Elizabeth Moore (Newsday)