Daughter of 9/11 victim among FDNY graduates

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro presided over a graduation ceremony for 280 probationary firefighters Tuesday, including the daughter of one of New York's Bravest who was killed on September 11, 2001.

For 34-year old Josephine Smith, this day was 13 years in the making. Her father Kevin, a member of HazMat 1, was one of the more than 300 New York City firefighters killed in the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, turning what had been a childhood dream of hers, being a firefighter, into a life's calling.

"I've been waiting for this day my whole life, especially the past 13 years. I made it my mission to make sure I fulfilled my dream," Josephine said.

She graduated from the Fire Academy alongside her fellow probationary firefighters, including three other women.

The graduation of four women brings the total number of female firefighters serving with FDNY to 44, surpassing the previous high.

Josephine's dedication and commitment to following in her dad's footsteps was noted by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"Some history being made today in the person of Josephine Smith. She is the first female legacy in the history of this department," said the mayor.

"Proud, just happy, excited, sad that my father couldn't be here," said Smith.

An emotional Smith credited the support of family, friends and fellow firefighters with helping to fulfill her personal mantra, "Make him proud", a tribute to the father who she says is always with her - his photo, his bracelet, and a small piece of steel.

"There isn't a moment of any day that I haven't thought about my father," said Josephine.

"She's made him very proud, she's made him proud. She's made us proud, but most important she's made herself proud," said her mother Angelina Clay.

The graduating class represents the growing diversity of the department, with 37 percent of the probationary firefighters identifying as minorities. Fifteen percent are black and 20 percent Hispanic. In addition, the class features 51 veterans of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.

"It takes a special kind of person to be a New York City firefighter," de Blasio said. "You have to be able to think clearly and quickly under extreme pressure and be ready to respond to any emergency at any time. Yet what makes this job so challenging, also makes it exceptionally rewarding."

Brandon Reilly was named valedictorian, while Joseph Seelig was named salutatorian. The physical fitness award was presented to Steven Ramhold.

This class also includes 26 who passed a promotional exam to the rank of firefighter after previously serving as paramedics and EMTs with the FDNY Bureau of EMS.

"This diverse class of Probationary Firefighters continues the Department's long-stated goal of better representing the city we serve; and boasts an extraordinary group of 51 veterans who have already proven themselves defending our nation," said Nigro.

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