Rookie Port Authority cop given fallen father’s shield number in ceremony at 9/11 memorial museum
Finish what you started.
That simple mantra echoed in the mind of Anthony Cortazzo on Tuesday as the new Port Authority police officer received his shield during a solemn swearing-in a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
Cortazzo’s father, Port Authority K-9 Officer John Cortazzo, died at age 49 in 2009 from a 9/11-related illness. It was triggered on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijacked planes struck the Twin Towers during a terrorist strike on the city.
“Finish what you started” was something the older Cortazzo would say all the time, and it stuck with his son during the most challenging times.
“From a young age, I saw the sacrifices that first responders make, but I also I saw the impact that they can have on others, and that definitely instilled that quality in me that this is something I wanted to do with my life,” Anthony Cortazzo said after taking his oath.
He was about 5 years old when nearly three thousand people were killed in the terror attacks. By the time he was 12, his father had lost his four-year battle to cancer.
The younger Cortazzo was one of 129 recruits who stood shoulder to shoulder as they took their oaths and received their shields.
“Through all the training physically and academically, we really came together as a class,” he said. “I really feel I gained 128 other brothers and sisters.”
Cortazzo’s shield number — 1648 — matches the same one his father wore when he responded to the towers in Sept. 2001. The police force set aside his shield number in the hopes his son would one day join the PAPD.
“I think it’s just important that people remember what happened here in 2001, they remember all the people that were killed that day but they remember the people who got sick that day and passed away from that day,” he said.
Cortazzo’s class is the second to be presented their shields in the museum’s Foundation Hall, which sits beside the North Tower’s footprint.
“The reason we did this was to remind the recruits the symbolism of not only 9/11, but the 37 officers of Port Authority that died that day and the officers that continue to die as a result of 9/11 illnesses,” said PAPD Superintendent Edward Cetnar.
He said this graduating class is one of the most diverse in the history of the PAPD.
There’s a “sense of great pride to get to today after 6 months of training to finally reach today,” said Cetnar. “It’s a sense of personal pride and accomplishment.”
After the swearing-in ceremony, bagpipers played during a wreath laying ceremony at the South Pool in honor of the first responders killed on 9/11.
A wreath with 37 carnations — representing the number of PAPD members killed — was placed near the pool.
“It’s an honor to graduate with the 120th class, especially to have our gun-and-shield ceremony held at the World Trade Center,” said Cortazzo. “It has a lot of meaning coming down here … where so many officers and first responders, people, lost their lives and also where my father responded to.”