Thomas Sabella, Lad.13 STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It comes as no surprise to the people who knew him best that Thomas Sabella carried in his wallet the famed speech by Teddy Roosevelt titled “The Man in the Arena.” In it, the president lauds the man who “strives valuably . . . who knows great enthusiasm, great devotion and spends himself on a worthy cause.” On Sept. 11, the speech — tucked in his wallet as always — disappeared with the 44-year-old firefighter, who was making his second rescue trip up the stairwell of Tower I when the structure collapsed. It was a worthy cause indeed. Had he survived, Mr. Sabella would no doubt have hidden from the limelight and shunned the inevitable recognition. “He was always embarrassed to accept awards” said his older brother, Charles, who recalled how he had to be prodded to attend the Fire Department’s 1999 Medal Day ceremony, where he received the Emily Trevor/Mary B. Warren Medal for a daring rooftop rescue. It was a last-ditch attempt to save a 31-year-old man trapped in the top floor of a burning six-story building in Manhattan the previous November. Mr. Sabella was lowered on a rope from the roof and managed to pull the man to safety through a window, all the while dangling five stories above the street. Looking back on the incident, Mr. Sabella said in an Advance interview that his first roof-rope rescue in 14 years on the job was “a little scary. But at the time, you knew they were trapped and had no other way to get out. So you just didn’t think about it.” “Not thinking about it” explains why Mr. Sabella and 10 of his colleagues from Ladder Co. 13 on Manhattan’s Upper East Side continued to climb up the stairwell a second time, searching for people trying to escape the chaos and smoke in the crumbling North Tower, the first building hit by the highjacked jet. The company got the call to respond at 8:45 a.m., and they were one of the first units on the scene. “He brought down scores of people and made it to the lobby,” said his brother. “Then he and 10 others from his company turned around and went back upstairs to find more people. They got the word from the chief to evacuate because the building was unstable. But they kept going.” Of the 11 men, one escaped unharmed and another was blown through a plate glass window as the building collapsed. Though seriously injured, he, too, survived. But Thomas Sabella and the eight others were trapped, probably where they were last seen alive — in the stairwell between the lobby and the ninth floor. “Tommy genuinely cared about people,” his brother continued. “If he believed in something, he’d throw himself into it full force. But he never expected anything in return. He just wanted to give.” Throwing himself into projects both on the job and at home — disregarding the possibility of failure — came naturally to the Brooklyn native, who moved with his family to Willowbrook at the age of 5. Mr. Sabella was talented in a number of construction trades, from roofing and carpentry to welding and woodworking. After graduating from Susan Wagner High School, he followed in the footsteps of his father, Edward, by learning the ornamental ironwork and welding trade. He was a welder for Con Edison for six years before joining the Fire Department 18 years ago. When he and his wife of 20 years, the former Diana Cerda, purchased a fixer-upper in Willowbrook, Mr. Sabella saw it as a challenge where he could put his talents to the test. With his brother and other skilled friends taking part, the team of weekend warriors raised the roof, eventually adding an entire second floor. He took great pride in also doing most of the finish work himself. Mr. Sabella’s penchant for boldly going where few would dare extended to his personal style — just recently he shaved his head — as well as to the kitchen. He loved growing his own vegetables and experimented with various recipes and ingredients. Getting across the message to his children, Nicole, 10 and James, 6, that fearlessness is a virtue so long you also have basic street smarts, Mr. Sabella was always on the go, whether it was coaching his daughter’s New Springville girls softball team, his son’s T-ball team or the occasional round of golf with his best buddy, his brother Charles. Last year, at age 43, he made it his business to learn snowboarding so he could join his daughter and her friends on the slopes at Hunter Mountain. And about four years ago, Mr. Sabella revived a long-abandoned Italian family ritual by attempting to make his own wine. “It was tough going down,” his brother joked. “And it came right back up. But he kept at it, and each year it improved.” As the hope of finding survivors in the trade center rubble began to fade, a bottle of his most recent vintage was uncorked and the family joined in a toast to its maker. “It was excellent,” his brother beamed. In addition to his wife, Diana; his son, James; his daughter, Nicole, and brother, Charles, Mr. Sabella is survived by his parents, Edward and Ann Sabella, and his sister, Loretta Viglione.