'He Was a Presence All His Own'

October 17, 2001

Angela Tiberi said her mother, Marion DeRubbio, listens to the last phone messages from her son, David, on her answering machine over and over again.

David DeRubbio's 12-year-old daughter, Jessica, looks at the clouds her father recently painted on her bedroom ceiling of their Bensonhurst home.

His wife, Lori, spends her time with her husband's firefighter friends, who stay most of the day at the house to look after her.

Angela herself looks at the picture of her brother and asks, "Why?"

The DeRubbio family is mourning the loss of a father, brother, uncle, husband, son and friend.

David DeRubbio, 38, is one of more than 320 firefighters missing in the World Trade Center disaster.

Handsome, with bright blue eyes and a hearty laugh, DeRubbio was known as the family cutup. "Crazy Uncle Dave" was how he was affectionately known to his nieces and nephews, said Angela.

He was the one who consumed the room, she said. The one the party couldn't start without. "He was a presence all his own."

After a series of jobs, DeRubbio followed three of his four brothers into the fire department three years ago and was stationed at Engine Co. 226 in downtown Brooklyn.

At DeRubbio's graduation ceremony, Angela remembered her father, Albert DeRubbio, overhearing a man saying, "Now I have two sons to worry about." DeRubbio responded, "Now I have four."

"It's always in the back of your mind that my brothers have dangerous professions," said Angela. "It's scary, even more so now." Angela said that the close-knit family has pulled even closer together, and don't take each other for granted anymore. There are more kisses and tears to go around. "We say, 'I love you.' We don't leave things unsaid," she said.

-- Stacey Altherr (Newsday)