Michael Esposito: Regular Guy, and a Leader

My Mel," her voice quivered. "Oh my Mel. He was a regular guy. But he was so much more than that."

Those are the words of a woman asked to describe the man she made a life and two children with.

His name was Michael Esposito. He was 41 and a lieutenant at the elite fire and rescue company Squad 1, stationed in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Her name is Denise. The children are Andrew, 15, and Michael, 12.

"When you say regular guy that's an inside joke," she said. "What it means is that he just helped people and asked for nothing in return."

Lieutenant Esposito checked the soundness of neighbors' roofs. He shoveled the old people's snow. And when the old neighbors heard of his passing, they came to ask in a sad, friendly way, "Denise, who will shovel our snow now?"

The boys at the firehouse nicknamed him Mel, a term for an average guy taken from a Rodney Dangerfield movie.

"Mel," said a friend, Firefighter Phil Solimeo. "Best fireman in the whole house. A leader of men. He led you into flames and you knew you were coming out.

"Mel was a regular guy."