“John Tipping II”
555 Fitness Hero WOD
- 4 Rounds for Time
- 15 Deadlifts (225/155 lb)
- 15 Box Jumps (24/20 in)
- 50 Double-Unders
John J. Tipping II, 33, of Port Jefferson, was a firefighter with Ladder Co. 4 in Manhattan. He died in the collapse of the south tower. He had tried to shield a civilian with his body as the tower came crashing down.
Inscribed at the bottom of Tipping's tombstone is a line from his favorite movie "Braveheart" that his family says neatly sums up his life: "Every man dies, not every man really lives."
Tipping lived and he lived large. An avid skier and snowboarder, he rented a Vermont house to enjoy the rugged sports. Tipping and his friends rented a helicopter that brought them to the top of the mountain, where they jumped out of the aircraft, said Stephanie Tipping of St. James, one of three sisters. "John was fun," she said. "If you had plans with him, he went all out. That's how John did things."
In 1995, John Tipping's best friend, Tom Lits, a professional soccer player, invited him to come to Germany to watch a match, Stephanie Tipping said. With two days notice and no passport, John Tipping and his younger sister drove from Charleston, S.C., to Miami, Fla., one of two locations on the east coast that issued passport on short notice. He rented a hotel room and had the passport delivered there, said Stephanie Tipping. "And off he went to Europe and enjoyed a week with his best friend," she said.
The Tipping family members try to focus on celebrating John Tipping's life, even a decade later, but they acknowledge his death has left a void in theirs. "It's so hard when your child is not here," said his mother, Arlene Tipping of Stony Brook. "I'll always think of John as being 33. It's a loss you'll never get over. You [just] control it better."
Fighting fires didn't scare John Tipping II. It was the thought of not fighting them that terrified him. After passing the department's physical and written exams, Tipping failed the color-blindness test. "He was frightened," said his sister, Maureen Tipping of Port Jefferson Station. "He wanted to get on that department."
Although Maureen, a nurse, went down to Ground Zero on Sept. 11 to serve the city as her brother did, she said the job of tutoring John was more frightening. Providing eye-washes for rescue workers was something she knew how to do. But failing to help John was something she feared. If her lessons hadn't been successful, John could not have followed his father, John Tipping, a 37-year veteran, into the department. But he passed the test, joining Manhattan's Ladder 4 in 1995.
"It was meant to be," Maureen Tipping said. Vinny Schwarting of Hauppauge, a friend since elementary school, said, "I remember when John would talk about being a New York City firefighter, how his eyes would light up."
On Sept. 11, John Tipping's eyes again decided his fate. Out on a call the night before, he suffered a corneal abrasion from debris and returned late, after being treated at a hospital. So he slept at the firehouse instead of commuting to Port Jefferson.
He was walking out Ladder 4's door Tuesday morning when he heard the radio and turned around. Another sister, Stephanie Tipping of Hauppauge, said that John, like any dedicated firefighter, wouldn't have had it any other way.
At 33, John was three years older than Stephanie, but people often thought she was the older sibling, because John "knew how to have so much fun," she said. He reveled in many rugged sports, like off-road biking, skiing, in-line skating and snowboarding, pursuing them as far away as Sweden. No matter where he went, he always had a friend to stay with, said Joe Milne, Stephanie's husband.
But Tipping also enjoyed homebody activities like cooking seafood feasts for his family and friends during summers in the Hamptons. Hook and halligan or hammer and saw -- he was equally talented. His carpentry work finished family members' homes, especially his mother Arlene's, to perfection.
On the morning of the World Trade Center attacks, he was supposed to meet Milne to complete the siding on his house. Tipping was also days away from purchasing his own home in New Jersey with his girlfriend, Kristin Costic. About a week after the attacks, Costic bought the house on her own so that "when John comes out of this, it will be the way he wanted it," Maureen Tipping said.
Tom Lits of Hauppauge, Tipping's inseparable friend for two decades, said getting married and watching their families grow together was supposed to be "the next phase." Milne, a New York City police officer, and Joseph Cestari, his sister, Arlene's husband and a New York City firefighter, spent days at Ground Zero looking for him. But now it is certain that Tipping will not return, and Lits said the remembrance of all their shared moments sustains him.
"Men have a very hard time describing their love for another man, and I don't have any problems describing him," Lits said. "I can honestly say I look at him as a gift from God, and I was lucky enough to receive him for the time I had."