John P. Burnside: Struck by Love's Lightning

It is 1991. The young woman is in-line skating in Central Park on a lovely July day. The police officer is standing on duty outside the park's Summerstage, where Marshall Crenshaw is playing. She stops to chat. He asks what she is doing that night. She mentions a bar.

That is how love began between Sandra Endres and John P. Burnside 10 years ago. "He walked in the door, and I said that was it," Mrs. Burnside said. "We were like two old souls. It was absolutely meant to be."

He was a police officer for only three years, while he waited for assignment to his other true love, the Fire Department. There, Firefighter Burnside was known as mistake-free. "When you checked in the morning and you knew John was working, it was going to be a good day," said George Kozlowski, a fellow firefighter at Ladder Company 20 on Lafayette Street.

The Burnsides lived a honeymoon life in Manhattan, vacationing often in the Caribbean and on the slopes. Recently, they started having thoughts of a more settled life. "But just when you think you're going to get serious, buy a home and have kids, it gets taken away," Mrs. Burnside said. " I'm never going to get that back, and it stinks." Her husband left Ladder Company 20 even before the alarm sounded, and died in the collapse of 1 World Trade Center.

Firefighter Burnside was raised in the tightknit Irish-American world of Inwood. He had an irrational love for the Minnesota Vikings, wrote poetry and played the guitar, often in the firehouse. He was so good that another firefighter once thought his rendition of a Led Zeppelin tune was coming out of a radio and went inside to turn it up.