March 3, 2002

Jeffrey J. Olsen: The Face of Salvation

J J. Olsen, who was 31, grew up beside Kingfisher Pond on Staten Island, where he loved to fish but always released his catch, usually with a kiss. He scanned the sky for hawks and delighted in a full moon. He was Carol Olsen's sixth child, the baby of the family, and when he was 4 she enrolled in nursing school and took him with her every day. Driving home, they'd watch the sunsets. "He had the gift of peace," she said.

People were attracted to him, like ducks to water, though in elementary school, "some of his teachers were unaware of the genuine talent that sat before them," recalled his sister, Cynthia Dinkins. "One young teacher was brought to tears as she recommended therapy." (He had been performing authentic-sounding bird calls in the back of the room.)

He married, became the father of two children and stepfather of one, and joined the Fire Department in 1998. He was a member of Engine Company 10, across the street from the World Trade Center, and was decorated for bravery. "When someone is in the worst time of their life, the most dire straits, and then they look up and see a face and know they are going to be O.K." said his brother Neil, "well, he loved being that face."