Modest and Loving
In his 19 years at the Fire Department, Firefighter Gary P. Geidel received seven citations for valor. His wife, Mathilda, knew nothing about them. Her husband was that way. He left his work at the firehouse. He lived life at home. Later, she learned that one citation was for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
What she does know is that he wanted to buy a white farmhouse on three acres of land in Greenville, N.Y., where they would move after his retirement. At 44, he was just a couple of weeks shy of 20 years in the department, so he worked overtime on Sept. 11 to build up his pension. Firefighter Geidel, who came from a long line of firefighters, was a member of the elite Rescue Company 1 in Midtown Manhattan.
Her husband showered her with cards and love letters before and after their marriage. She knows that she gave birth to Mathilda seven years ago through in vitro fertilization after a long struggle to have children. She knows that he built a second story on their bungalow in Staten Island.
After the attacks, she called the In Vitro Fertilization Center in Downtown Brooklyn, where she had been treated, to find out if any of her husband's frozen sperm remained. Some did, and she made plans to start treatment in August. She knows that she will raise the children at the farmhouse that she just bought. "The only thing holding me together is that I can still have his children," she said.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on April 28, 2002.