A Firefighter by Choice
Given his two bachelor's degrees, Lawrence Joseph Virgilio did not have to be a firefighter. He had a physical therapy degree from New York University, and found great satisfaction in rehabilitating cardiac and pulmonary patients. And as part of his minor in dance at Queens College, he had trained in classical ballet and performed in community theater. But he loved responding to crises as an advanced rescue specialist at Squad 18 in Manhattan, and he loved the firehouse camaraderie.
After 13 years as a firefighter, he had just been given the honor of training to become a member of the elite Fire Department team that travels to other cities in times of disaster. And so, when Mr. Virgilio, 38, called his girlfriend of six years, Abigail Francis, from his firetruck on the morning of the attack, "he knew the situation was dire, because he had always been worried about a terrorist attack in the city," she said.
All seven men on his truck are believed to have perished; so far, four, including Mr. Virgilio, have been recovered. "He told me he loved me," Ms. Francis said. "That message was a great gift."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 22, 2001.