Lt. Paul Martini was born to be a fireman. His father, Joseph, had put in 33 years in the New York City Fire Department, retiring as a lieutenant in 1994. Paul Martini, with 13 years of firefighting under his belt, hoped to soon make captain.

"He studied books like he was going to school" and took trial tests in preparation for the ********* exam in October, his father said.

Martini, 37, raced with his men from Engine Co. 201, Brooklyn Battalion No. 40, to the World Trade Center at 9:15 a.m. He took three men into the building with him to search for survivors, leaving one outside to monitor the apparatus, standard procedure.

Ten minutes later, the south tower collapsed. Nothing more was heard from the four men. This was all the elder Martini could learn in the aftermath when he visited his son's firehouse at 51st Street and Fourth Avenue. But, he said, Capt. Luke Lynch assured him, "If anyone can find his way out, Paul can." Lynch added, "They're all great firefighters. They're somewhere waiting for us to get to them."

After a lifetime in Brooklyn, Paul Martini moved to Staten Island last year with his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Lindsay, 6. He was graduated from Nazareth High School in Brooklyn and worked as a plumber before joining the fire department. "He always wanted to be where the action was. He loved his job and being with the guys," his wife said. "He was so good-hearted; he would do anything for you," his mother, Mary, said.