After they took the captain's test, Lts. Robert Dimperio and Louis Modafferi compared notes. Lieutenant Dimperio knew he'd aced it; Lieutenant Modafferi knew he'd done badly.
Results: Lieutenant Dimperio missed it by a point. Lieutenant Modafferi was among the top 10 scorers in the Fire Department.
Captain Modafferi, 45, who was awaiting assignment as a battalion chief, was so modest that many people had no idea about his accomplishments — although they knew all about those of Christine, 18; Michael, 16; and Joseph, 12. The captain led Staten Island's Rescue 5, an elite company that saves people from a horrendous array of precarious situations.
Captain Modafferi also worked on a federal rescue team, racing to aid victims in plane crashes and Caribbean hurricanes.
To make extra money, he fixed dents in cars. As a boss, he was good-humored and fair-minded. If he was teaching you something, he acted as if you knew it already and he was just reminding you of some details.
He was a man of many loyalties: married to Joanne and the job for about 20 years; played softball with childhood friends, three of whom worked with him at Rescue 5. Rarely rattled, when he got home he relieved job stress fervently but safely: he vacuumed.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 30, 2001.
CAPT. LOUIS MODAFFERI, 45, of New York, a firefighter, wasn't scheduled to work Sept. 11 but joined his squad when he heard the World Trade Center had been attacked. "His job was very important to him," said his wife, Joanne. "If he had to choose how he was going to die, he would have chosen being a hero and doing what he did. That much gives me comfort." Despite the physical training and book work the job demanded, Modafferi was a full-time father to his two sons and daughter. "He was a perfect father in my eyes. He never let me down," said his daughter, Christine. "I miss him so much."
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press