NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Tuesday was a big fay for the FDNY.
About 300 probationary firefighters graduated from the academy.
Among them: More than 20 whose fathers died in the line of duty.
Web Extra: Watch The Graduation Ceremony
They filed in while the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums played. Many of them were thinking of the men with them not in body, but in spirit.
"Definitely, our fathers we are watching over us today, that's a fact," said probationary firefighter Robert Tilearcio.
Three hundred and one probationary firefighters graduated from the FDNY Academy. Twenty one of them uniquely know the risks they're taking, because they're legacies - probies whose police and firefighter fathers died in the line of duty.
"Today, they fully achieved their dreams. They are honoring their fallen loved ones. They are continuing their families' legacy of service, and they are making all of us immensely proud," said Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
Greg Kumpel wanted to play baseball growing up, not follow in his father's footsteps. He was just 10 when his dad Kenneth died on 9/11. Now Greg's a probationary firefighter.
"My brother was always his little shadow, so that was expected that he would go in, so I think he'd be pleasantly surprised hopefully proud as well," Greg said. "He was strong and yet kind and compassionate.
Many of the probies' fathers died on 9/11, or from 9/11-related illnesses. Robert Tilearcio's FDNY dad responded that day, and spent months working on the pile.
"I didn't think it would take his own life 18 years later, but that's where we are today, and there are so many other people in his shoes, sick from 9/11-related cancers. So I just pray for them, for those other people," he said.
The probies now join the rest of their class, assigned at firehouses across the city. But what happened on 9/11 will be with them on every call.
The class has the most legacies in FDNY history.
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