A Sensitive Soul, Calm in a Crisis

September 27, 2001

As of yesterday, Peter C. Martin, a lieutenant with Rescue 2 in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section, was still missing.

A veteran firefighter with numerous decorations for bravery, Martin, 43, of Miller Place, is among seven members of the 30-member squad listed as missing since the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers.

Martin's wife, Alice, said accounts she's heard had her husband in the stairwell of one of the towers marching people out.

"I have three boys here that need me desperately, so I have to maintain the 'command post,'" she said, using an expression she said her husband would use. "That's why I'm so calm. We get a lot of strength from my husband."

A stay-at-home mom, Alice Martin was seeing her boys on the school bus Sept. 11 when one of her neighbors broke the frightening news: A plane had slammed into one of the Twin Towers.

She raced home and switched on the television just in time to witness the unthinkable: a second jetliner rocketing into Tower Two.

Watching in horror, she knew her husband's surely was among the search and rescue companies summoned to the blazing towers.

Martin's wife and three boys hadn't seen or heard from him since he left for work the previous night to begin a 24-hour shift.

Stunned by the images that filled her television screen that day, she repeatedly called her husband's fire house, Alice Martin said. But the phone just rang and rang, she said.

"That evening, when he didn't come home, I started calling hospitals. I figured I had to start some place," she said.

About midnight on Sept. 11, Phil Ruvolo, the captain of Martin's rescue squad, phoned with the news she had been trying hard not to face: Her husband was missing.

Martin's career in the search and rescue squad and as a firefighter spans more than 22 years. Before being promoted to lieutenant in 1995, he was a fireman at Rescue 2 and at Squad 252 in Brooklyn.

He was born in Jamaica, Queens, and grew up in Valley Stream. He graduated from St. Agnes High School in Rockville Centre and earned a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from St.John's University, where he met his future wife. They married in April 1984.

His neighborhood friend and fellow firefighter Bob Maynes, chief of Battalion 41 in Brooklyn's Flatbush section, said Martin is extremely devoted to his boys, Daniel, 13, James, 8, and John, 6.

Maynes, whose own sons are in the Boy Scouts with the Martin boys, said his friend rarely misses an event involving the boys. Professionally, Martin is "extremely dedicated," Maynes said.

Martin's dedication took him to Oklahoma City, where he joined in the search and rescue operations after the bombing of the federal building. Home from his eight-day stint clawing through the rubble for survivors, he talked about how the devastation brought tears to his eyes, his wife said. He is a very sensitive soul, "very cool and calm, even in a crisis. He's the best. The worst part is not having an official answer."

-- Collin Nash (Newsday)


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