A new crop of New York’s bravest graduated from the fire academy on Tuesday, and more than a dozen are following in the footsteps of their Sept. 11 hero fathers.
Thirteen of the 301 newly minted graduates are children of firefighters who died during the terror attacks on the World Trade Center 18 years ago, while an additional six had firefighter dads who later died of 9/11-related illnesses, according to ABC 7 New York.
“Many of their fathers were killed on Sept. 11, several others died of World Trade Center illnesses, and others lost their lives in the course of their duty, bravely working to save and protect others,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at the ceremony, according to a news release. “Today, these 21 legacies are no longer children dreaming of their careers theirs fathers loved, and of serving in the world’s greatest fire department — today, they have fully achieved their dreams.”
Among the city’s newest slate of firefighters are two pairs of siblings, all four of whom lost their fathers on Sept. 11.
Rebecca Asaro, 27, graduated alongside her brother Marc, 25, joining their brothers Matthew and Carl Jr. in the FDNY, for which their late dad Carl served.
“Every day that I came to the academy, I was grateful to be there and to follow in the footsteps of my father, brothers, uncle, and all those who came before,” Rebecca said in the release. “This is exactly where I want to be.”
Marc, too, is proud to carry on the family tradition, and said he was thrilled to do so with his sister by his side.
“It’s more incredible that my sister and I are doing it together,” he said. “It’s a proud feeling. My sister and I push each other to be better every day.”
Leonard Ragaglia Jr., 28, shares the same bond with brother Anthony, 25, and said he’s been waiting for the day he could follow the same path as their late father, Leonard.
“I’ve always wanted to be like my dad and follow in his footsteps,” Ragaglia Jr. said in a social media post shared by the FDNY. “I always hung around the firehouse as a kid and put his gear on. This is a dream come true. As the years went on, joining FDNY became something that I wanted to do more and more. I’m ready for this. It means so much, words can’t describe it.”
For Robert Tilearcio Jr., 29, his graduation is bittersweet, as his firefighter father Robert died in 2017 of an illness related to his work in helping with 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts.
“I wish he could be here when I graduate, but I know I am making him proud,” he said in a post shared by the FDNY. “I took the civil service test the same month my father died. I knew he was happy to know I was heading in the right direction.”
In addition to the Asaros and the Ragaglias, the other children of Sept. 11 heroes who graduated on Tuesday are Matthew Jovic, 28, Gregory Kumpel, 28, Pete Carroll, 26, John Fischer, 27, Scott Larsen, 22, Brendan Regan, 30, Manny Mojica, 23, Robert Foti, 29, and Michael Florio, 24, according to the New York Post.
“It’s a dream come true,” Mojica told the New York Times. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”