There is no telling how many New Yorkers are walking around because Capt. Brian Hickey became a New York City firefighter 20 years ago. He commanded Rescue Company 4, which rushes to every major fire in Queens, not to fight flames, but to save trapped civilians and firefighters.
It has always been among the department's most dangerous jobs. Two of his men were killed in Astoria last Father's Day, and another died with him at 2 World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
Yet the 47-year-old captain, who had suffered burns and other injuries many times on the job, never dwelled on the dangers. Instead, he spoke with pride of the brotherhood (women included) of firefighters.
"It means they are ready to lay down their lives for one another," his wife, Donna, said. "They all knew it. It was something unspoken among them."
He was also a volunteer firefighter in Bethpage, N.Y., where he grew up, married his high school sweetheart and had four children: Danny, 23; Dennis, 18; Jaclyn, 16; and Kevin, 10.
In 1992, Captain Hickey and his only brother, Raymond, created "Brothers in Battle," a 45-minute video documentary about firefighting. It is still used in training.
In 1993, Raymond died of cancer. "Brian was at his side for 11 months," Mrs. Hickey recalled. "I've never seen such love and compassion."