LOWER MANHATTAN (WABC) -- A special ceremony was held Thursday in Lower Manhattan for the 129 newest members of the Port Authority Police Department.
The graduation ceremony included six legacy officers, including one whose father died in 2009 from a 9/11-related illness.
Officer Anthony Cortazzo, 26, is the son of fallen K-9 Officer John Cortazzo.
''I have very limited memory of 9/11, I remember my father being gone and I remember something happening and not knowing where he was," Cortazzo said.
John Cortazzo responded to Ground Zero and worked on the recovery efforts. He died from a 9/11-related illness when Anthony was 12.
"In 2006 he became sick with myelodysplastic syndrome, he fought that for three and a half years and then passed away in 2009," Anthony said.
As a special honor, Cortazzo received the same badge number his father carried on the job.
"Wearing the same shield number that he wore and being a part of the same department that he was a part of is definitely an honor," Cortazzo said.
Cortazzo's shield was presented to him by his mother, Patrizia Cortazzo, who was loving, supportive and anxious.
"My son is following in his father's footsteps, I'm very proud of what he's doing, but I'm also scared," she said.
The ceremony was followed by a wreath-laying at the South Pool of the World Trade Center. The recruits laid 37 carnations symbolizing the 37 PAPD officers who died in the attacks.
"We want our recruits to see, our new police officers to see, that last piece of steel that has the number 37 in there," said PAPD Superintendent Edward Cetnar.
Cortazzo said it was a special honor to be a part of the ceremony.
"If I can be honest, I tried to talk him out of it, I did, I was scared, I did try to talk him out of it, my daughter also tried to talk him out of it," Patti Cortazzo said. "But when your son says, 'Mommy I just want to go out there and help people,' what do you say? He has a very good heart, just like his father did. I just want him to stay safe."
ALSO READ | NYPD addresses backlash over viral video of officers taken after Drake concert at the Apollo
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News