He Had a Passion for Animals, Adventure

November 1, 2001

Angel Luis Juarbe Jr. was the type of guy who would roam the streets of the South Bronx picking up stray dogs and taking them home.

At one point, because of his diligence, his family had five dogs, all named "Butchie."

Juarbe, 35, a firefighter with Ladder Co. 12 , loved animals, liked being out in the wilderness and found joy in spending time with his family.

He was also proud to be a firefighter and helped turned the station house, in Manhattan's Chelsea, into a homey place where neighborhood children hung out, but only after they assured him they had completed their homework.

"He picked up a stray cat and took it to the firehouse," said his older sister, Susan Juarbe, a court officer, also of the Bronx. "When he got there, a few of the officers were telling him it was a typical firehouse-you work, you watch TV, you do your shifts. Now they have a cat and a fish tank, and kids who come to visit."

Juarbe, a health-conscious man who this year was picked to model for the firefighters' calendar, also was outgoing and did not fear adventure. About three years ago, he sold his beloved Mustang to pay

for a trip to Africa, so he could see animals wander freely through the Serengeti Desert. In the same spirit, he had applied for several television reality shows with the hopes

of representing New York and his firefighting comrades.

This summer he got a call to go to Los Angeles and audition for the Fox show "Murder in Small Town X," and was picked. In the reality show, contestants had to solve a fictional murder in a small town. In the first week of September, he got his relatives and neighbors together in the Wales Avenue building, where he lived all his life, to see the show together. His mother cooked the flavors of her native Puerto Rico for the occasion.

They watched in suspense, as he competed to solve a mock crime in a small Maine town. They were surprised to see him pass the first rounds, earn the respect of other contestants and win the grand prize, $250,000 and a new Jeep Liberty.

They hugged and cried. He promised to throw a block party, where he was to announce he would use part of the money for a scholarship fund for his nephews and nieces. There, Juarbe would also hand the keys to the sport utility vehicle to his father, Angel Sr., and would give his mother, Miriam, the down payment for the family's first home.

But he was just finishing his shift on the morning of Sept. 11 and rushed to the World Trade Center after the terrorist attack. He was last seen running inside one of the towers, after helping evacuate the Marriott Marquis hotel, heading up to assist other firefighters.

After several hours, Juarbe's brothers, Charles and Edgar, who are police officers, called the family and said they were fine. Juarbe was never heard from and remains among the missing. A younger sister, Jessica, also survives him.

-- V