New York Times Portraits of Grief
It was one of those moments that suggest some firefighters are born with a hat and jacket with their name, on a hook somewhere, just waiting.
John Daniel Marshall, known as Dan, was not a firefighter, not quite yet, that Sunday evening driving home from a shore weekend, a fire extinguisher in his Ford pickup. Here's how his sister, Doreen Rowland, tells it:
He leaves Ocean Beach, N.J., about 5:30, says goodbye to his wife, Lori, and daughter, Paige, 3 — his son, John, would come along a year later — and a few dozen friends.
Had to be ready for work on Monday. Halfway home to Congers, N.Y., a car has run off the Garden State Parkway, burning. An elderly couple inside needs help.
A half-hour later, Ms. Rowland finds herself inching through the traffic jam, and look: there's a strapping guy, very handsome, very familiar, waving cars to move on. He's put out the flames, helped the couple to safety. "Keep going," he's yelling. "I got it under control. Everything's fine."
A tall blond angel with green eyes, she recalled, it was just Dan, in command.
A few months later, he joined the New York Fire Department. He worked at Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx, near where his father had been a police officer, and by last September, at age 35, did rotating duty at Engine Company 23 in Manhattan.