On Sept.11, 2001, Justin Cusano was just nine months old.
But the day that changed America forever also a had profound influence on the new Marine, who graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, on the tragedy’s 19th anniversary.
In 2001 the young Marine’s father, Rocco Cusano, was a firefighter for the Croton-on-Hudson, New York Fire Department ― just 45 minutes away from New York City.
Rocco Cusano still remembers driving into work when first heard that a plane flew into the first World Trade Center building.
“I heard over the radio a plane crashed into the World Trade Center and my idea of that it was a small Cessna plane,” Rocco Cusano told Marine Corps Times in a Friday phone call.
He watched on television, along with the rest of the nation, in shock and horror as the rest of the day’s events unfolded.
The next day he, along with other volunteers from his department, went to New York City, spending a 14-hour shift on standby, ready to provide whatever help may be needed.
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“Listening to the scanners and radios come over to the firehouse,” he said, “you could hear it in their voice people were scared.”
Justin Cusano grew up listening to his father’s stories and doing small tasks around his fire department.
“He would always bring around the firehouse and bring me around the gear, I thought it was super cool,” Justin Cusano told Marine Corps Times in a Friday phone interview.
At age 14 Justin Cusano joined the junior fire department and by age 16 had passed the fire department’s academy to become a firefighter, he told Marine Corps Times.
But he still knew he wanted to be a Marine and started talking to a recruiter when he was only 17.
“You always push them for what they want to do,” Rocco Cusano said. “I support him 150 percent.”
On his final hike of the crucible Justin Cusano was exhausted, hungry and completely physically drained, he said, but thinking of his father and what he had accomplished as a firefighter kept him moving toward his goal and helped him earn his Eagle, Globe and Anchor.