The Veteran and His Son

He would not have wanted it any other way.

Joseph J. Angelini Sr. and his son, Joseph Jr., were firefighters, and neither survived the twin towers' collapse. "If he had lived and his son had died, I don't think he would have survived," said Alfred Benjamin, a firefighter at Rescue Company 1 in Manhattan who was partnered with Mr. Angelini for the last six months.

The elder Mr. Angelini, 63, was the most veteran firefighter in the city, with 40 years on the job. He was tough and "rode the back step" like everyone else. His 38-year-old son, who worked on Ladder Company 4 on 48th Street, was on the job for seven years.

"If you mentioned retirement to Joey, it was like punching him," Mr. Benjamin said. Joseph Jr. was proud of his father's reputation and tried to copy him any way he could, said Joseph Jr.'s wife, Donna.

And they never gave up their tools. "Think about climbing 20 stories with bunker gear, ropes, hooks, halogens and other different types of tools and somebody wants to borrow a tool -- no way," Mr. Benjamin said. "You ask them what they need done and you do it for them. You carried that tool all the way up there, so you're going to use it. If they thought they were going to need a tool, they should have carried it up. Joey Sr. always said carry your own weight. He always carried his."

Joseph Jr. applied to the department 11 years ago. He got called seven years ago. "It was the proudest day for my father-in-law. It was a great opportunity," said Donna Angelini. "His father was a firefighter and he wanted to be one, too."

Mr. Angelini, who had four children, taught Joseph Jr. carpentry. Often they worked on projects together, including a rocking horse. Joseph Jr., who had three children, had started building a dollhouse for one of his daughters. Unfinished, it is sitting on his workbench.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 6, 2001.