New York Times Portraits of Grief

Joseph Keller

On that last Sunday, Joseph Keller, bona fide grown-up -- father, husband, homeowner in Park Ridge, N.J., and department head at the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel -- had what would be a final fling with his daredevil teenage self. He and two buddies from high school got together and dusted off their old bicycle freestyling stunts. Mr. Keller, 31, who had competed in the extreme sport, still had the chops to pull off a funky chicken. (Don't ask.)

"If you were looking for someone to egg you on," said his friend Prentice Chang, "Joe was like: 'Let's do it!' A lot of people followed his direction."

Some lucky ones did on Sept. 11. When his wife, Rose, called, urging him to flee, he told her he was helping with the evacuation. Later, when he phoned his boss, he sounded cool, but concerned about the two injured firefighters with whom he was trapped. "Joe was always reassuring, the one who made things O.K.," Mrs. Keller said. "You'd think you couldn't do something, but he made you believe you could. He made me think things were possible."