NEW YORK -- With a public count on deck, nearly 150 emergency medical technicians with the FDNY graduated Tuesday.
For Marine veteran and salutatorian Tat Lim, it's a continuation of his life of service.
"I feel like I haven't served enough in the military. So this gives us another chance to serve the public as well," he said after the ceremony.
Lim will be among the thousands of members of FDNY who will be responding to more than 1.6 million annual emergencies citywide.
"There will be good days and bad days on this job. Hard days that make you stronger as a person and better as a EMT, but I can promise you there will be calls. There will be people that you meet. There will be lives that you save that remind you who you are and why you chose this job," said FDNY Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.
The FDNY said the EMTs went through 18 weeks of training for CPR, medical and trauma assessment, fractures and emergency childbirth, which ended in a public pledge, the Declaration of Geneva, promising to respect human life and dedicate themselves to the service of humanity.
"As you embark on your careers, remember that you a part of a legacy that spans generations. You run toward danger when others flee. You provide comfort to those in need. And above all, you make our cities safer," said John J. Hodgems, the FDNY's chief of department.
Each individual graduate has a unique story. Andrew Sheppard, 25, joined in honor of his uncle and grandfather, Dennis Cross, a firefighter who died on 9/11.
"It means everything to me. Trying to just set the right example like he did. Taking care of the guys below me, next to me," Sheppard said, surrounded by his family.
Valedictorian Victoria Ortiz is an Air Force veteran who wanted to help others after the death of her grandmother, Mafalda, from COVID-19.
"It was a promise to the rest of my family, a promise to never be underprepared in that kind of situation again," Ortiz says, showing off her grandma's photo taped inside her hat.
The 148 new grads include six veterans of the U.S. armed forces and four children of FDNY members who lost their lives in the line of duty or to 9/11-related illnesses.
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