John Fischer: A Date Without Rain

There was John Fischer, the firefighter, and John Fischer, the father. John Fischer, the master of Buffalo wings, and John Fischer, the chop-buster who once called his friend Teddy McVey's nose "a two-car garage." John Fischer, the Little League umpire known for his fairness, and John Fischer, the history buff who remembered the details of Gettysburg and Gallipoli as if he had been there himself.

At Ladder Company 13 and Ladder Company 20, the two Manhattan firehouses where he spent most of his career, he was respected for his wit and his willingness to hang out in the kitchen, even after he became an officer. "He took care of the guys," said Mike Toal, a firefighter at Ladder Company 20, where Lieutenant Fischer, 46, was assigned for the last seven years.

His wife, Jean, remembers that when they were dating, the heavens would invariably open up. But there was a Friday last September when they met in the city. "Come on, let's have dinner," he said, as he finished his shift. She had just had her hair cut; the children were back in Staten Island. "We went to a little Mexican restaurant, and walked all around by N.Y.U.," Mrs. Fischer said. The lights glowed, all downtown hummed, and it did not rain.