New York Times Portraits of Grief

Steven Coakley

Steven Coakley, a firefighter with Engine Company 217 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, had just finished a full shift and was preparing to leave the station house when the alarm rang on Sept. 11.

Working long hours was not unusual for him. Mr. Coakley, 36, would often work back-to-back shifts for two weeks so that he could spend the rest of the month either boating or at his house in Madeira Beach, Fla., near St. Petersburg. He liked life in Florida so much that he planned to retire and live there full time. "He had just a few years to go," said Linda New, who had been dating Mr. Coakley for about a year. "He used to say, '41 and done.'"

He cherished his time off, but being a firefighter was also a passion.

"He liked working at the firehouse in Bed-Stuy," Ms. New said. "It was an A house, with a lot of action."

Ms. New said Mr. Coakley never talked much about the dangerous parts of his job, but would tell stories about the lighter aspects. "He delivered five babies," she said. "Two to the same mother, but at different times."

A man who did not waste words, Mr. Coakley worked hard and played hard. "Steve was really pretty young," said John Kauzlarich, a friend in Florida. "It wasn't easy to keep up with him."