The last time Andrew Desperito, 43, was summoned to rescue victims of a terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, in 1993, he suffered from smoke inhalation but otherwise emerged unscathed.
Last week, as Desperito escorted a woman to safety from the north tower, he was buried under crumbling rubble.
"Your father died a hero," Laura Desperito told the couple's three children, Nicole, 13, Anthony, 10, and David, 6.
Desperito joined the New York Police Department in 1984, and transferred to the city's fire department in 1987. His wife finds comfort in knowing that he gave his life helping others, and that the woman he was aiding at the time survived.
"It was so typical of him," Laura Desperito said.
Like many firefighters, there was more to Desperito's life than the fire hall.
Desperito, of East Patchouge, Long Island, believed it was a father's duty to coach his children's soccer teams, even though he had never played.
So he attended coaching seminars and clinics, studied the game on television, and in his own quiet way led Anthony's team to a league victory.
"He never yelled at the kids on the sidelines when they were playing," Laura Desperito said. "He'd see all these other coaches going nuts, and he'd just be quiet. He was never negative about anything."
In addition to his wife and children, Desperito is survived by his parents, Adele and Anthony Desperito, and a sister, Diane Laveglia, of Greenpoint, N.Y.