'I Have to Help the People'
On one arm, Benjamin Suarez had a tattoo of his wife's name, Sally. On the other was a tattoo of a dragon entwined with the emblem of the New York Fire Department. They spoke of his two great loves.
Sally Suarez said her husband, 35, was about to end a 24-hour shift with Ladder Company 21, at 38th Street, when he called to tell her he would be late getting back to their home in Brooklyn because "I have to help the people." It was the last she heard of him.
Mrs. Suarez spends her days remembering how open and generous he was. "Everybody loved him," she said. "There was not one place we would go that people didn't know him. I loved that."
Because she worked six days a week and his schedule was more flexible, he tended to accompany their three children to school events like plays or football games. "Sometimes he would take the whole company with him," she recalled.
And he was romantic with his wife of eight years, reminding her of anniversaries that she sometimes forgot. He wanted to buy a house, but because she was so picky, they had spent two years looking, she said. "He told me, 'I could live in a cardboard box, but I have to make sure you have the house you want.' "
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 3, 2001.