Thirteen children of FDNY firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001, graduated from the Fire Academy on Tuesday, carrying on the legacy of their parents' heroism, according to the New York Post.
The 2019 class includes the highest number of "legacy" members since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It includes 12 men and one woman whose parents died in the attacks.
The graduates are: Mathhew Jovic, Anthony Ragaglia, Leonard Ragaglia Jr., Gregory Kumpel, Peter J. Carroll, John C. Fischer, Scott B. Larsen, Rebecca L. Asaro, Marc A. Asaro, Brendan R. Regan, Manny A. Mojica, Robert J. Foti and Michael J. Florio.
Also graduating were the sons of two firefighters who died from illnesses related to their work at Ground Zero, and one son of an NYPD officer who was killed on 9/11.
"Bravery runs in these extraordinary families who have sacrificed so much for our city," Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said earlier this month. "I'm proud of the commitment these probies have already demonstrated to the department and look forward to celebrating with them at their graduation."
The group is united in their shared loss, and equally motivated to honor the parents who gave their lives in efforts to keep others safe.
"I think it's a great tribute to their dads," said Uniformed Firefighters Association president Gerard Fitzgerald. "It's quite inspirational to hear that they're following in their fathers' footsteps."
Helozia Asaro, now the mother of four firefighters (two sons were already in FDNY, and her younger son and daughter just graduated) said her kids grew up idolizing and admiring firefighters.
"Being that they are the youngest, I'm more concerned," Asaro said. "They wanted to honor their father, to help people like he did. Even if he hadn't died, they would have become firefighters. Since they were little kids, the fireman was Santa Claus. The fireman organized the picnics."
Stella Heedles is the grandmother of a recent FDNY graduate, and the son of another firefighter, Dennis, who died of lung cancer tied to conditions at ground zero. She will always remember her son, particularly on anniversaries of 9/11, and said she will pray for her grandson.
"I hope God is always watching over him," she told the Post.