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Port Authority Police K-9 Officers Named In Honor Of 9/11 Heroes

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- The Port Authority Police Department is remembering the officers lost on 9/11 in a special way.

As CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported Friday, new members of the force are being named in their honor.

"I'm heartbroken every day. I miss him every day," said Patti Cortazzo.

Her husband, John Cortazzo, was among the brave first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

"We remember our dad not coming home that night and not knowing when he was going to come home. It was scary," said Gianna Cortazzo.

In the many days that followed, Cortazzo and a K-9 officer with the Port Authority Police returned to Ground Zero.

Cortazzo died from a 9/11-related illness in 2009. Months later, the family lost the beloved dog. Both battled cancer.

"There are a lot of first responders that are still getting ill and still passing away from 9/11 and I don't want them to be overlooked as the 20th anniversary is coming around," said Anthony Cortazzo, John's son.

The Port Authority Police Department is making sure that's not the case by honoring Cortazzo and five other officers by carrying on their names through K-9s.

"We are hoping a tribute such as this is a little bit of solace that can extend the legacy of their service," said Port Authority Police Superintendent Edward Cetnar.

The dogs were introduced to the force in a graduation ceremony Friday.

Here is the full list of Port Authority Police K-9 officers named in honor of 9/11 heroes:

  • K-9 Romo, in honor of Chief James Romito
  • K-9 Mazza, in honor of Captain Kathy Mazza
  • K-9 Nava, in honor of Officer Joseph Navas
  • K-9 Gonja, in honor of Officer Uhuru "Gonja" Houston
  • K-9 Mack, in honor of Officer Donald McIntyre
  • K-9 Tazzo, in honor of Officer John Cortazzo

The six teams passed a rigorous 12-week training program for certification in explosives and narcotics detection.

From trains and bus stations to bridges, tunnels and airports, these dogs will be there with their handlers.

"He's my best friend. We don't go anywhere without him," said Officer Joseph Benedict, whose sidekick Tazzo is named for Cortazzo.

"I have really big shoes to fill, 'cause he was also a K-9 officer as well. So it means a lot," Benedict said.

"It's just such an honor and the dog looks just like the dog that we had that worked with my husband," Patti Cortazzo said. "I told the dog to stay safe and to protect everybody."

That's what each one is trained to do, in honor of the brave officers who made a sacrifice on 9/11 that will never be forgotten.

The Port Authority started training detection canines in 1993 after the World Trade Center bombing. Since then, 125 teams have joined the specialized unit.

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