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Josephine Smith told her father, a firefighter, she would work with him one day but it wasn’t meant to be: He died while responding to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.
But Smith carried on with her dream, even stronger after the death of her dad, Kevin. Now, 13 years later, she has become the first daughter of a 9/11 responder to join the ranks of New York City’s fire department.
“I've made it a mission to make sure that I fulfilled my dream of becoming a city firefighter and following in my father's footsteps,” she said Tuesday, when she graduated from the FDNY academy. She started to cry, noting though it was a happy moment she was also “sad that my father couldn't be here.”
Some 340 firefighters died responding to the attack on the Twin Towers.
“Kevin was a part of one of the units hit most hard that day: Hazmat 1,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told the academy graduates. “Josephine out of that tragedy devoted herself to service.”
Her mom, Angelina Clay, said Kevin would be proud of his daughter, “but most important, she's made herself proud about what she's accomplished today. And that's our goal with her.” She noted that if he were still alive, Kevin would have told Josephine: “Do a good job. Keep your head straight. Your heart in it. And love your job.”
Smith, who said she used to play with fire trucks and tag along with her dad to work, carries a memorial card of her father in her cap and wears his bracelet. She visits the 9/11 memorial on Father’s Day, on the anniversary of the attacks, and stops by it while jogging. Her dad, she said, is with her constantly.
“There's not a second that goes by I don't think of my father. There's so much that reminds me of him,” she said. He’d be proud of her, she added, but worried, “being a firefighter himself, he knows what comes with the job. But he would know it I'd be able to handle it, he knows how strong I am.”