Lt. John Fischer

Lt. John Fischer
World Trade Center

A Date Without Rain

here was John Fischer, the firefighter, and John Fischer, the father. John Fischer, the master of Buffalo wings, and John Fischer, the chop-buster who once called his friend Teddy McVey's nose "a two-car garage." John Fischer, the Little League umpire known for his fairness, and John Fischer, the history buff who remembered the details of Gettysburg and Gallipoli as if he had been there himself.

At Ladder Company 13 and Ladder Company 20, the two Manhattan firehouses where he spent most of his career, he was respected for his wit and his willingness to hang out in the kitchen, even after he became an officer. "He took care of the guys," said Mike Toal, a firefighter at Ladder Company 20, where Lieutenant Fischer, 46, was assigned for the last seven years.

His wife, Jean, remembers that when they were dating, the heavens would invariably open up. But there was a Friday last September when they met in the city. "Come on, let's have dinner," he said, as he finished his shift. She had just had her hair cut; the children were back in Staten Island. "We went to a little Mexican restaurant, and walked all around by N.Y.U.," Mrs. Fischer said. The lights glowed, all downtown hummed, and it did not rain.

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 9, 2002.

John Fischer, 46, a devoted fireman

Jean Fischer walked into an Upper East Side bar one night 17 years ago to meet her girlfriends for a drink. When she didn't see them, she struck up a conversation with a firefighter from Ladder Company 13, around the corner.

Fischer said the firefighter started flirting with her, teasing her about arriving alone. Fischer's friends called a few minutes later to say they had gone to a different bar. As she was leaving to meet them, the firefighter followed her and eventually met all of her friends.

The two began dating and were married a year later.

"My mother thought I was crazy, meeting someone in a bar like that, but I thought it was the luckiest day of my life, and I hope John did too," Fischer said.

John Fischer worked at Ladder Company 13 for 11 years, until he was promoted in 1994 to the rank of lieutenant. After a brief stint with the 23rd Battalion on Staten Island, he was transferred to Ladder Company 20 on Lafayette Street in SoHo, less than a quarter-mile from the World Trade Center.

Mr. Fischer, 46, a Staten Island native, was one of seven firefighters from Ladder Company 20 who died while trying to rescue people from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. He was promoted, posthumously, to the rank of captain on Sept. 17.

Minutes before the alarm sounded on Sept. 11, Mr. Fischer called home, but his wife was taking their children to school in their Staten Island neighborhood of West Brighton, so he left a message on the answering machine.

Not long after Jean Fischer returned home, she heard a large explosion. It was the sound of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.

"You know they have a dangerous job, but you also know that they're very good at it, they're very cautious," she said. "So even when you watch that horrible thing on television -- and I admit I had to turn it off -- I still had so much confidence in him that he would be okay."

Members of Mr. Fischer's company were last seen on the 35th floor of the North Tower.

"He would never have left while there were people in there who needed help," his wife said.

His colleagues at Ladder Company 20 agreed.

"He was a great leader. He knew how to treat the men, he earned our respect," said Louis Lupo, a firefighter who worked under Mr. Fischer for seven years.

Mr. Fischer was a hard-working family man who coached his three children's basketball and soccer teams, cooked dinner every night, and still found time to jog six or seven miles each morning.

At the firehouse, where officers are exempt from daily kitchen duties, Mr. Fischer would often treat his company to mouth-watering meals.

"We'd all be out there preparing, chopping vegetables. And since he was the chef, he'd come in at the last minute and whip it all up in the pot," said Greg Edwards, a firefighter who worked with Mr. Fischer for seven years at Ladder 20.

"He was happy. He was a wonderful guy who would really go out of his way for you," Edwards said.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Fischer is survived by two sons, Timothy, 14, and John, 9; a daughter, Laura, 12; three brothers, George and William, both of Middletown, N.J., and Robert of New York; and a sister, Maureen Sanborn.

A memorial Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart Church, Staten Island.

Profile by Dore Carroll published in THE STAR-LEDGER.

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