Stephen P. Russell: Taming Fire and Water

Stephen P. Russell was a firefighter who worked wonders with wood. He built furniture and cabinets and once even made a wave-skipping hydroplane that he raced around Jamaica Bay.

Firefighter Russell, of Engine Company 55, also built a display case at his fire station in Little Italy that became a memorial to him and four colleagues who died at the World Trade Center. Black-framed pictures of them now hang there.

Firefighter Russell, 40, grew up in Rockaway Beach, Queens, in a house on the edge of the bay, and he loved the water. He sailed. He water-skied. He became a master scuba diver. The youngest of three sons, he was close to his parents, Marie and Clifford Russell, and except for one brief time when he tried selling penny stocks, he never moved out of the family home.

One New Year's Eve, he began a long romance with Rhonda Cohen, an administrative assistant at Ernst & Young. They traveled to Las Vegas and New Orleans, and they both loved the cockatiel that he had taught to whistle "Tequila." They never made it to the altar. But they were as much of a couple as a couple could be.