A Picture of Inspiration
Cathy Brunton had always known that her husband, Vincent, the captain of Truck Company Ladder 105, loved being a firefighter. He joined the department 22 years ago, the same year they got married, the same year their daughter Kelly was born.
But it was not until she received a four- page letter from a young firefighter she did not recall having met that Mrs. Brunton came to appreciate the kind of firefighter her husband had been, the lessons he was always prepared to teach and the depth of respect others had for him.
"I could go into his office at 11:30 p.m. and ask him a fire question and he would lean back in his chair and tell me countless stories," the letter from the firefighter, Will Hickey, said. "He would say the best way to learn is from your mistakes. 'If you're not making mistakes, you are not trying.' "
Even a false alarm provided an opportunity to learn. Mr. Hickey described how terrified he once had been at a fire with Captain Brunton. Flames were shooting out the windows and the roof. "I was thinking to myself, 'This guy is absolutely crazy! What is he thinking, he's John Wayne or something?' " But Captain Brunton, 43, took his arm and showed him what to do.
"I have put a small picture of him on the underside of my helmet," Mr. Hickey said. "Sometimes I just touch it to remind me to stay calm, to keep it simple and to 'think on my feet.'"
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 29, 2001.