Charles L. Kasper: Granddaddy's Trains

Last year at Christmastime, Deputy Chief Charles L. Kasper of the Fire Department's Special Operations Command went out and bought a set of trains.

They were not for his 425-person division, which races to the scene whenever there is a major catastrophe and already owns a huge collection of red-painted fire trucks, fireboats and other exciting toys for grown-ups. No, they were for his grandson, but when the chief linked the track pieces into a circle and sent the locomotive huffing and whistling around it, Dylan, then only 7 months old, was too young to appreciate the spectacle.

Never mind, thought Chief Kasper. There's always next year.

On Sept. 11, the 54-year-old veteran of dozens of rescues was having a day off when he heard about the World Trade Center attacks. He scrambled into a spare fire engine parked near his home in Staten Island and sped to the towers. He had a motto: "Drive it like it's stolen," recalled Jim Ellson, a retired captain.

Recently Chief Kasper's wife, Laureen, and their children unpacked the trains, set them up the same way he had and watched while Dylan reacted with delight. "We say that he's playing with Granddaddy," who was "always on duty for his family," Mrs. Kasper said. "And we know that Charlie's circle will always encircle us."