Despite the heavy rigors of his job, Paul Ruback was essentially a gentle man, said Debbie Macielag, the companion the firefighter lived with for more than four years in upstate Newburgh.

Assigned to Ladder Co. 25 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Ruback, 50, is believed to have perished attempting to rescue victims in Tower Two of the World Trade Center.

"He recently bought a hummingbird feeder for the yard," Macielag said. "He was a very gentle soul, a person who loved life and loved to watch the sun rise."

She said her companion was also a deeply sensitive person who constantly pondered the many lives he was entrusted with protecting on the job.

"In this regard, Paul was probably the most spiritual man I ever met," she said.

Ruback graduated from Syracuse University after majoring in psychology and sociology. The couple had a 2-year-old son, Paul Christopher Ruback.

The firefighter is also survived by two stepchildren, Jack, 15, and Charlene, 11, and three children from his previous marriage, David, 18, Gina, 17, and Shannon, 11.