Destined for Firefighting
Long before he understood the dangers, Joe Hunter was love-struck by the sights and sounds of firefighting, the shiny red trucks with their bright lights and whirring sirens. The trucks from the South Hempstead Fire Department, whose firehouse was at the end of his block, could not pass his house without him racing behind on his Big Wheel. At age 8, Mr. Hunter would coax friends into mock rescue drills, using the family's water hose and a ladder.
"He was just a kid," said Teresa Labo, his sister. "But whenever it came to anything about firefighting, he was always oh so serious. It was like he was destined."
So by the time he was old enough to go off to college, to Hofstra, Mr. Hunter, 32, was no longer just dreaming of fighting fires. He had become a volunteer with the very department that fueled his passion. It was a feat that meant as much to him as the day in 1996 when he graduated from the New York City Fire Department's academy. His family, though proud, never stopped worrying. "God bless you," his mother would say on days when he rushed off to be with his squad, 288 in Maspeth, Queens.
Hoping to comfort her, Mr. Hunter would always pause long enough to say: "Mom, don't worry about me. If anything ever happens, just know I loved the job."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 2, 2001.