“Kevin Pfeifer”

555 Fitness Hero WOD

  • 5 Rounds for Time
  • 50 Double-Unders
  • 15 Hang Power Cleans (95/65 lb)
  • 10 Pull-Ups
  • 5 Handstand Push-Ups

namesake photo
This Firefighter Hero WOD is dedicated to Kevin Pfeifer, FDNY, Engine 33, who was killed on September 11, 2001.

On Sept. 11, Joseph Pfeifer ran into his younger brother, Kevin, amid the chaos at the foot of the World Trade Center. It was a welcome surprise for the brothers, New York City firefighters who lived six blocks apart in Middle Village but rarely saw each other on the job. Joseph, chief of the First Battalion in Lower Manhattan, had raced to the scene when he saw the first jet hit the north tower. He was setting up an operations base in front of the towers when he saw Kevin, a lieutenant at Engine Co. 33, who came in response to the second alarm. "We spoke a few words," Joseph said, but time was short. Exchanging concerned looks, they strode into the north tower and got to work. Kevin headed up the stairs, while Joseph directed maneuvers in the lobby. Shortly afterward, the south tower collapsed, plunging the area into darkness.

Following orders to evacuate, Kevin gathered his company and began the long trek down. Joseph believes his brother was near the 40th floor at the time of the collapse. "Somewhere around the 10th floor, he realized he had to switch to another stair," he said, because rubble from the first tower blocked the way out. A team of firefighters from Engine Co. 7 who ran into Kevin on their way down the same set of stairs said he told them the right way to get out. "He kept his company together, and he made sure the other firefighters had a way out," said Joseph, who was standing in front of the tower when it fell, engulfing him in a cloud of dust and debris. Engine 7 made it out 30 seconds before the north tower collapsed. His brother did not.

Kevin Pfeifer was a hero, but he wouldn't have seen in that way, said his brother. "He was just trying to do his job," Joseph said. That was how he was. "He was quiet," said his mother, Helen Pfeifer of Middle Village, "but not really quiet."

An easygoing man with a quick, easy wit, Pfeifer was never one to toot his own horn. He liked to do things well, but he did them with as little fuss as possible. As a lieutenant, he used his unassuming manner to bring out the best in the young firefighters he trained. "He didn't yell or scream," his brother said. Instead, he was the kind of leader who got those he commanded to do things they didn't realize they could do. "He saw in people more than they saw in themselves," he said. "He was a quiet guy who made a difference."

Growing up in Middle Village, Kevin was content to let his older brother, an accomplished athlete whose pictures cover the walls of the family home, take the spotlight. "We'd joke about how he got all the glory," said their sister, Mary Ellen Machcinski of Stamford, Conn. But Kevin didn't mind. It wasn't that he was shy or a doormat. He just didn't need the acclaim. "He was just so cool," she said of the little brother who tagged along willingly on his older siblings' adventures.

Kevin Pfeifer grew up to become the kind of adventurous man that boys dream of becoming. "I always wanted him to sit at a desk," his mother said. "But he wanted the fire department." He worked as a paramedic before joining the fire department in 1990.

A licensed pilot, he loved flying his Cessna to Block Island and Martha's Vineyard. "He was a little more daring than I," said Joseph, who never flew with his brother. Kevin, who never married, doted on his nieces and nephews. During the summer, he would take them sailing on Jamaica Bay in his Hobie catamaran. "He got a kick out of being with the kids," his mother said. He taught them all how to fly on computer flight simulators and displayed an unerring instinct for choosing the perfect gift, like the miniature backpacks he sent his teenage nieces one Christmas.

He left a different kind of gift for his mother this holiday season: a photograph of himself snapped on Sept. 8 by Canadian photographer Jean Nichols, who was doing a fashion shoot outside Engine Co. 33 on Great Jones Street. "Kevin was never one to be photographed," his mother said. But he stood still for Nichols, a former firefighter from Montreal. "Three days before the World Trade Center, can you imagine?" his mother said. "Otherwise, we really wouldn't have a decent picture of him."
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