A Day at Disney World
Daniel Brethel, captain of Ladder 24 on West 31st Street in Manhattan, had had some close calls: His neck and ears had been burned when he was holding his helmet over an injured firefighter who was lying on the street; once he had required a skin graft. Arriving at the World Trade Center after both jets had hit, he shouted a warning to his men: "Guys, be very careful, because firemen are going to die today."
He had been off duty at 9 a.m. His wife, Carol, hearing about the attack at their home in Farmingville, hoped he was already on the train and knew nothing about it. On Tuesday night, they came to the house and told her they had found his body. Captain Brethel, 43, had grabbed one of his men as a building started to collapse. They dived under a firetruck. Both were crushed.
On Wednesday, Ms. Brethel went to her husband's firehouse to empty Captain Brethel's locker. Theirs is a large, close family. In April, all the brothers and sisters and their children, 19 Brethels, went to Disney World, waiting until it was close to closing time so they could ride Thunder Mountain together.
This week, at least a dozen Brethels, including Captain Brethel's children, who are 12 and 14, accompanied his wife to the firehouse. While Ms. Brethel closed the locker room door behind her, the firefighters told stories about their captain and the children had a chance to see the people stopping by and the flowers they had left. And that was good, said Mr. Brethel's sister, Loretta.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 22, 2001.