The Name Meant Something
When Lt. Michael Warchola was a child in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, his grandmother brought British tabloid newspapers into the house. Paging through the tales of three-headed babies and ichthyological anthropomorphism, he developed a passion for reading and a flair for the bizarre.
He parlayed his appetite for books into a teaching certificate, and he joined the New York Fire Department in 1977, after five years on the waiting list. "It was dangerous, but it was a good job," said his father, Michael Warchola. It also helped pay for his trips to the strange and historical sites he read about.
As he neared retirement, Lieutenant Warchola, 51, who was divorced, devoted more time to tending his garden at his home in Middle Village, Queens, where he made elaborate drawings of Venus flytraps, but he kept a Godzilla poster on his wall.
The attack of Sept. 11 spread his name around the world, as it did those of many other victims. One who noticed the name was Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda of Slovakia, and when he came here recently to run in the New York Marathon, he sought out Lieutenant Warchola's older brother Denis, who was only vaguely aware of the family's central European ancestry. Mr. Dzurinda took home a picture of Lieutenant Warchola and held it aloft during a television appearance.
"Everybody in the country saw my brother's picture," Denis Warchola said.
The brother, a retired firefighter himself, had a chance for the most intimate of farewells. After his brother was dead, "I got to put my hands on my brother's arm."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 20, 2001.