21 Children of Fallen First Responders Become New York City Firefighters

Of the New York City Fire Department's class of 301 probationary members, 21 are the children of fallen first responders, including some who died on 9/11.

Marc and Rebecca Asaro were just children when their father, New York City firefighter Carl Asaro, gave his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, 18 years later, Marc and Rebecca are following in their father's footsteps by becoming firefighters themselves.

On Tuesday, the New York City Fire Department graduated 301 probationary firefighters, 21 of whom are the children of fallen first responders, including men who died on 9/11 and from World Trade Center-related illnesses. 

Carl, 39, was a firefighter with Engine 54 in Midtown Manhattan when the two planes struck the World Trade Center. He became one of 343 FDNY members who lost their lives that day. 

"I kept asking my mother when my father was coming home. She didn't have an answer," Rebecca told CBS News. "They never found him." 

Her father's firefighter family helped the six Asaro children and their mother over the years. Two of the Asaro siblings — Matthew and Carl Jr. — became firefighters. This year, after 18 grueling weeks of training, it was Marc and Rebecca's turn to graduate. 

“It is an amazing experience, to be able to do the same thing that my father had done, and had given his life for. It’s more incredible that my sister and I are doing it together. It’s a proud feeling. My sister and I push each other to be better every day,” Marc said.

During the graduation ceremony, the NYFD's class valedictorian, probationary firefighter James Devane, told his own story of escaping a basement fire that nearly killed him. He made a full recovery and achieved his dream of becoming a firefighter, he said, and he honored the veterans and children of fallen first responders who were graduating with him. 

"I had the privilege to stand side by side with 21 of the strongest people I have ever met," Devane said. "It is a truly humbling experience to go through this academy with the children of the most heroic people the world has ever seen, men who sacrificed their lives on 9/11 and subsequently after due to illnesses so thousands of others can live." 

For Rebecca, her father will always be on her mind as she starts work. 

"I feel like my dad is with me every step of the way and it brings me a little bit closer to him," Rebecca told CBS News.