When he became a firefighter three years ago, taking the badge number of his retired firefighter father was the fulfillment of a life's dream for Brian Cannizzaro.
"His dad was his hero, his idol," said Cannizzaro's wife, Jacqueline. "He wanted to make him proud every day."
But to Cannizzaro's father, Sam, of Staten Island, Brian was the hero - even before he became a martyr, lost in the terrorist attacks.
"Everyone says, 'He always wanted to be like you,' " his father said. "I told him, 'Brian, I wish I could be half the firefighter that you are now.' "
In the months since Cannizzaro, 30, of Staten Island, was lost, his younger brother has also started the process of becoming a firefighter. Craig Cannizzaro, 27, hopes to start classes this spring. He had always planned to be a firefighter, he said, but his brother's loss "just makes more motivation to actually finish what he started."
Cannizzaro seemed an ideal firefighter to his younger brother.
"He was built like an ox," his brother said. "He had the perfect build, the perfect mentality for the job. Almost like a Sylvester Stallone in 'Rambo' type of person."
But to his wife, Cannizzaro's strength was his balance - his ability to handle anything he took on.
"He was very confident in everything he did, and really excelled in everything he did," she said.
This confidence was evident in his marriage proposal in 1996. He surprised her before a packed Broadway show, "Beauty and the Beast." During the curtain call, the actor playing the prince asked the audience to sit down. Then he asked Cannizzaro and Jacqueline to stand.
"He said, 'Brian has given me the honor of asking you if you will marry him,' " she recalled. "I turned to Brian, and he was on his knee with the most beautiful ring I had ever seen."
Fifteen months ago, Cannizzaro used his firefighter training to deliver the couple's first child, Christopher. They had planned to start trying for another child this month.
On the morning of Sept. 11, Cannizzaro left for work early, as usual, his wife said. "I kissed him and said, 'Be careful. I love you,' as usual."
He was last seen evacuating workers in the lobby of Tower Two. Seven from Ladder Co. 101 in Red Hook were lost that morning.
"He was never one to back down or be the shy one," said Cannizzaro's older brother, Charles, of Greenwich, Conn. "He was always the one leading the charge.
"His fate was probably inevitable with that kind of drive that he had," his older brother said. "At least that's the way you try to look at it."
Missing his sense of humor, his "sinister smile," and his "fish-that- got-away stories," Cannizzaro's brothers, father and sister-in-law have found their own way to honor him - with tattoos. His badge number, 11126, is on both brothers and Charles' wife, Tami. Craig's and Sam's also include portraits of Cannizzaro in a gladiator mask, a reference to the movie "Gladiator," whose message resonated for Cannizzaro.
His father quoted the movie - "What we do here on Earth echoes in eternity."
And, Sam said, "what he did that day, I'm sure is going to echo in eternity."