Firefighting family remembers dad lost on 9/11

CBS News

MERRICK, N.Y. - One of the families that suffered the most on September 11th was the family that is the fire department of New York. New York City firefighters traditionally call each other "brother." That day 343 firefighters were killed. CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports another tradition of the FDNY is that the job is often passed from parent to child.

Complete coverage: 9/11 anniversary

Tommy Gies is 28, and proud to say firefighting is in his blood.

"The brotherhood of it is incredible," Tommy says. "To me, there is no other thing. This is what I was meant to do."

His younger brothers feel the same. Ronnie is 26. "Some people are meant to sit behind a desk," Ronnie says, "and some people aren't."

Bobby Gies is 23. He's volunteer fireman in the family's hometown of Merrick, Long Island, waiting to take the test to become a New York City firefighter. Just like his brothers, just like their father.

New York City Fire Department

"We watched him go to work every day happy," Bobby says. "Looked forward going to work, hated being on vacation. Loved being home with us, but you know? He loved going to work everyday."

Their father Lieutenant Ronnie E. Gies was one of the 343 firefighters who never came home on September 11th.

Bobby describes the video of their father from that day. "He's looking up at the Towers, and he didn't have an ounce of fear in him. You see everyone else running away, hiding under cars. There he is, walking directly torwards it. It's crazy."

"We got the phone call that he was on the missing list," Ronnie says. "I punched a hole in the door. I ran down the block. After that, everything's just a blur."

Tommy says he went from being 18 to a full grown man "in about 10 minutes."

Their father's body was recovered in the rubble of the South Tower.

The family decided that they weren't going to let it crumble them. In the past ten years, milestones passed without their father -- two weddings, one grandchild.

Tommy and Ronnie were over the moon when they found out they passed the test to become New York City firefighters.

Their mother Carol worries. "I never worried a day when my husband was alive. Never worried when he went to work. Never thought twice. It's his job. She used to say to him, "love you, see you when you get home."

She never says "goodbye" to her boys now. She says instead, "I love you, be safe. I love you, be safe." She says it's her "last words to them every tour."

Ronnie has his dad's helmet, recovered from Ground Zero. He also wears his father's wedding ring.

Tommy carries his father's knife. His father's badge number, 11524, is tattoed on his arm.

"I would never in a millino years want my daughter to go through what the three of us have been through," Tommy says.

So why not change professions?

"I love my daughter," Tommy says, "but I love my job."

The job requires running towards danger. It's a risk the Gies brothers know better than most.