By Marion Filler
On Sept. 11, 2001, Rebecca Asaro waited by the window for her father to come home.
He never did.
The uncertainty dragged on for several weeks. At school, she was assigned to write an essay about 9/11 and the first responders who passed away.
“I wrote about the men and women who sacrificed their lives that day, not knowing that my father was among them,” Asaro said Sunday in Parsippany at the Morris County 9/11 Memorial Park, at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks.
Asaro’s father, New York Firefighter Carl Francis Asaro, died on 9/11 along with 14 members of Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9.
He was just shy of his 38th birthday. Rebecca Asaro was 9 at the time.
Following the lead of her brothers, she graduated from the Fire Academy two years ago, and is a member of her father’s unit, in mid-town Manhattan.
“Every September 11, I look back and reflect what my life could have been like. I wonder what my father would say about my brothers and myself becoming firefighters sharing some of his experiences,” she said during her keynote speech.
Rebecca remembers: Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:
She recalled her father’s love of family and his musicality — he played the guitar, saxophone, piano and clarinet.
“After dinner on many occasions, he would rehearse Grateful Dead songs with my brothers and me for hours. Some children have bedtime stories and lullabies. But the Asaro kids had Grateful Dead concerts.”
Asaro was introduced on Sunday by John Fila, who served with her father on Engine 54. It was not his shift that day, or he would have been among the dead. Fila, a native of Boonton, spoke with emotion about the dedication and danger facing firefighters.
“It’s not a job, it’s in your heart,” Fila said.
NYC Firefighter John Fila recounts search for 15 colleagues. Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:
He described the pride in seeing children of the fallen return to service — 13 of whom graduated from fire academies in 2019. Rebecca Asaro was among them.
“As soon as she walked into the firehouse, we knew she was a keeper,” Fila said.
Speaking from the podium, Morris County Commissioner Stephen Shaw remarked that anyone standing in that spot on 9/11 could have seen the smoke from the Twin Towers on the eastern horizon.
Although America has promised never to forget, “time takes an unwelcome toll” on memory, said Shaw, noting that more than one third of Americans, especially those who were very young at the time, have no recollection of the event.
“It’s up to us to continue the vigil,” said Shaw.
“If there’s one thing to take away from my speech today, it would be to remember. It is said that you only truly die when your name is mentioned for the last time.”
Her memory will never fade, and her story may inspire the next generation as well.
“I’m so proud to be a firefighter, but to be a firefighting Asaro.”
Bells tolled as the names of 64 victims from Morris County were read aloud. They are engraved in the red brick walkway that surrounds the memorial fountain and centerpiece of steel beams salvaged from the Twin Towers.
As dusk was falling, the ceremony came to a close with Police Pipes and Drums of Morris County, a 21-gun salute, and the playing of Taps.
The memorial at 350 West Hanover Ave. is always open to the public.