On Time When It Mattered
It's a slow day in superhero land. So Kevin Dowdell docks the fireboat, and, dressed in firefighter regalia, clumps over to the Mercantile Exchange. He waves proudly from the visitors' window to his teenage sons on the floor, wearing ties for their summer jobs. Patrick! James!
Then the job calls. So Lieutenant Dowdell of Rescue Company 4, Queens — trained to use roof ropes and scuba gear, to handle hazardous materials, wiggle into confined spaces — sprints into action, with a relaxed head and a racing heart. He loves rescue work so much he chooses not to try for captain, so he won't be transferred. "Rather be a happy lieutenant," he tells RoseEllen, his wife of 21 years. He has a bravery medal and 20 citation bars.
To support the family, the happy lieutenant, 46, works days off, sanding floors. When his boys start playing bagpipes and snare, he practices with them, whomping a bass. More time with the boys, plus he gets to march in the parade, wearing his kilt.
Only one thing about RoseEllen's best friend drives her nuts: first to a fire, last to a social event. "You don't know what would have happened if we left on time," retorts the happy lieutenant, a born talker. "We could have gotten into an accident!"
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 10, 2001.