Thomas P. DeAngelis: In the Thick of Things

ive years ago, when Thomas P. DeAngelis was promoted to battalion chief in the New York City Fire Department, his wife, Patty, told him: "You've been running into burning buildings for 22 years. But you're a battalion chief now, so you won't have to do that anymore."

In her heart, she knew better. Tommy DeAngelis would never send a firefighter into a building he had not personally entered and checked out. Around the East 51st Street firehouse in Manhattan, he was known as "Chuckles" because of his sunny good humor and his lust for life: sports, cooking, sailing, carpentry, writing. But when the alarm sounded, he would suddenly become all business.

Sometimes he would kick around the idea of retiring in a year or two