Stray Cats, Dogs, Kids
When Margaret Arce opened up her son's apartment in Stuyvesant Town, she found remnants of his generosity, letters to Santa Claus from poor children. David Arce, a firefighter, would answer them by delivering wished-for toys, year after year.
"He has always been like that, always bringing home stray cats, stray dogs, stray kids," she said. "Growing up, it was the same thing; he was always bringing someone home to me who needed a meal, or who needed a coat."
On Sept. 11, he jumped on the fire truck, Engine Company 33, on Great Jones Street, even though his shift had ended.
She described her son, 36, as a bit of a fatalist. "He always had this belief that destiny was waiting there," she said.
Firefighter Arce, whose nickname was Buddha, was an enthusiastic fan of Joseph Campbell and would have long discussions at the firehouse about the writer's research into myth and religion. "I think what resonated was the overall belief that in the bottom line, everybody's religion is the same," she said. "Everybody is the same. It just comes down to one being. No matter who you are and what you are, we're all underneath the same sky."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 22, 2001.