An Early Trial by Fire
Several years before he became a firefighter, Paul Gill was walking down the street in Astoria, Queens, when a woman started screaming in a burning building. Smoke poured from the window as the woman clutched a baby and cried for help. With no firefighter in sight and everyone else standing around, Mr. Gill climbed the fire escape, took the baby in his arms and led the woman to safety.
He was a carpenter at the time, but the incident firmed his desire to join the Fire Department, which he did in 1999. While his family worried about his safety, he assured them that fighting fires was no more dangerous than carpentry jobs that put him on steel beams 50 stories up in the sky. "He didn't have a fear," said his father, John.
Mr. Gill, 34, managed to blend his two careers, continuing to take carpentry jobs to help pay the medical bills of his two sons, Aaron, 14, who received a kidney transplant seven years earlier, and Joshua, 11, who suffers from juvenile osteoporosis. "He was both a dad and a big brother to his kids," said Michelle Evans, his sister. "He was patient with Aaron and helped Joshua with sports."
He was also artistic. Though he never took a drawing class, he became adept at complicated line drawings and geometric designs, even toying with the idea of becoming a tattoo artist.
His best-known artwork is a big Maltese cross he designed for the front of his fire station, Engine 54 in Manhattan. Right now, it is covered in flowers.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 20, 2001.
Paul John Gill, Firefighter, Engine 54
Paul John Gill – Firefighter, Carpenter, Artist, Loving Father,
Son, Brother and Hero. Paul will always be remembered as a person who
would lend a hand to anyone in need. No favor was too big of a
commitment for Paul. When he said he’d be there to lend a helping
hand, you could count on him. It was only fitting that he pursued the
career as a Firefighter. Paul had the genuine desire to reach out to
people in need.
While Paul was waiting to be called by the Fire Department (after he
took the test), he helped save a child from a fire in Astoria, Queens
where he and his family lived, he was walking by and a woman holding a
child was screaming from a window from which smoke was pouring. Everyone
was standing around watching, but not Paul. He lowered the fire escape,
climbed up and took the child from the woman. Both he, the child and the
woman made it down the fire escape to safety.
His two sons, Aaron and Joshua (14 & 11) were very lucky to have a Dad
like Paul. At 34 years old, Paul was more like a big brother to his
sons, while taking on his role as father to raise them to be kind,
considerate and loving like himself.
Paul lived his life with enormous energy and a sense of humor just as
equal. His creative wit gave him an unique ability to take life’s
ups and downs in stride. When Paul walked into the room, you were sure
to have an attentive friend who would put a smile on your face and a
hearty laugh in your stomach.
Paul inherited his Grandfather’s artistic abilities. As with our
Grandfather, we now have Paul’s artwork as a part of his legacy.
There is so much that we will miss about Paul not being here on this
earth with us. However, his friends and family will always keep him
alive in our hearts because we know HE IS ALIVE - - only in another
realm. It is only a matter of time before we are all rejoined with him
again - - in Heaven.
Profile submitted by Michelle Gill-Evans.
Tribute page by Georgette Gill at (http:// www.angelfire.com/ny5/paulgill).