New York Times Portraits of Grief

James Pappageorge

As a boy, James Pappageorge was afraid of doctors. But he spent much of his adult life learning about medicine and saving people — as an emergency medical technician, then a paramedic and, finally, a firefighter. "He was always carrying books, and he was always enrolled in some sort of course," said Gina Pinos, his fiancée.

Not that Firefighter Pappageorge was the bookish type. His 6-foot-1 bodybuilder's physique by itself drew attention. Then there was his hair — flowing locks that earned him the nickname Fabio before it was shorn for enrollment at the Fire Department academy. If that were not enough, there was a souped-up white Mustang, with flashing lights and an ambulance siren, "everything but the gurney," Ms. Pinos said.

It was not just for show. In the back, Firefighter Pappageorge, 29, carried a full medical kit, just in case. He decided to join the Fire Department, said his sister, Helen Pappageorge, because its schedule would leave him free time to be a paramedic.

Firefighter Pappageorge and Ms. Pinos were saving for a September 2002 wedding. Last Sept. 11, she phoned him just as Engine 23 was being sent to the trade center.