For five years, James was employed with the FDNY, first as an EMT and then as a paramedic. Finally, on July 23, 2001, he became a fireman.
He made a profession out of saving others. Many in the emergency field in Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx knew him as a “buff” who would go against all odds to help those in need. He yearned for the days when he could save someone’s life on the job and spend his free time befriending the lonely. Long before the WTC disaster, he was a hero to us.
His mother, Juana Pappageorge, is an NYPD detective in Queens Narcotics, and he has one sister, Helen Pappageorge, who was also born to assist people.
If he has gone to heaven, he is most likely with his loving father. His Fiancée, Gina Pinos, believed, “It’s one of my biggest regrets.” then, “I never had the chance to tell him.”
She contacted Jimmy when the first jet hit the North Tower. “I could hear the emotion in the firehouse. Then, she remembered, “I heard the alarms.”
He informed her, “Gotta go, they’ll go without me. I love you.”
Gina, now 49, explained, “So I never got to say it. I don’t know if that would have made a difference,” she said. “I always carry it with me.”
She had a miscarriage after Jimmy’s death.
“The grief, the agony, not sleeping, crying all the time because he wasn’t found right away—my body didn’t react well,” she added.
Gina and Jimmy met at a gym in Flushing and enjoyed a brief summer romance before parting ways. Gina said Jimmy, a personal trainer, “wanted to make something of himself” before settling down with her.
He knocked on Gina’s home dressed in his EMT costume after he became an EMT. She was pregnant with another man’s child, who she described as “who wasn’t the love of my life.” But when it came to Jimmy, “our love was undeniable.”
Jimmy told her, “You’re the one for me,” then “I’m going to take care of you and [the baby] for the rest of my life.”
When Justin was born, Jimmy was in the delivery room and treated him as his own, to the point that Jimmy’s coworkers were shocked to hear at his wake that the 5-year-old wasn’t his actual son.
In 1996, he joined the FDNY’s EMS section, and in 1999, he became a paramedic. Gina added, “He loved helping people, and he loved medicine.”
He took the city fireman test for one reason: he wanted to have more time for his family. We wanted to have another child.”
Jimmy joined Engine Co. 23 after graduating from the Fire Academy on July 23, 2001.
Unfortunately, he was murdered in a terrorist assault less than two months later.
Gina went on to marry a fireman Jimmy met while training. Their marriage lasted four years, and they produced two boys, Liam and Stephen.
“The firefighters were going through pain as well, from losing so many people on the job, and the guilt of surviving,” she added. “We were brought together under the wrong circumstances.”
Gina believes she is now emerging from the shadows of 9/11 twenty years later. She recently met a new person.
“I have never fallen in love again after Jimmy,” she confessed. But, “I am open to the possibility of love again,” she says today.