“I [have] always loved helping people,” said Robert Cirri about his job as a police officer in West New York. He has been serving for a total of five years. His father, Robert L. Cirri, was a Port Authority police officer who had started serving at age 16 – until he passed away on Sept. 11, 2001.
There are many reasons police officers decide to enlist. In Robert Cirri’s case it was the death of his father on 9/11. He recalls what happened 10 years ago when he was a senior at Saint Joseph High School (now closed).
“It was a family type school,” he said about the Catholic school that had approximately 300 students. “The principal and the teachers were hesitant to tell us.”
“I don’t take things for granted.” – West New York Police Officer Robert Cirri.
The family waited all day to hear from him. Around 11 p.m., the Port Authority officially released a list of the missing officers and his father was on that list.
His grandparents got the news too. “He was their only son, they took it really bad,” he recalled.
Cirri’s father was only 39 years old. He was second in charge with the Port Authority Police in Jersey City, as well as a part-time paramedic and EMT for Jersey City Medical Center and a volunteer for the Weehawken Ambulance Corps.
On Sept. 11, police officers responded from different locations around New York City. His father went with other officers through the Holland Tunnel. When they got to one of the towers at World Trade Center, “they were clearing people floor by floor,” said Cirri.
Turning evil into good
When his family held the funeral, Robert L. Cirri’s remains had not been found. A couple of months later, his body was found along with another four police officers. According to the younger Cirri, the men were trying to lift up a handicapped lady who was sitting in a chair, and when the building collapsed, they tried to protect her.
“They were almost out of the building,” Cirri said.
After his father passed away, all his family “chipped in together,” said Cirri about receiving financial help from them. His family also lived in a two-family house, and the rent collected from the first floor helped for their expenses.
After his father’s death, Cirri decided to serve the community. When he was a kid, he would ask for his father’s badge to put around his neck. “I’m very happy to be a police officer, just like my father,” he said.
His two half brothers also serve as police officers. “My whole family is in public service,” he said.
When he took the decision, his mother and sister were very supportive. “They knew they couldn’t convince me out of it,” he said.
Cirri was chosen to read the name of his father during a memorial service at Ground Zero last Sunday. He said he feels proud of being able to wear his uniform.
“It is a big honor to do it as his son,” Cirri said.
Never taking things for granted
“It’s bittersweet,” he said, referring to the anniversary of 9/11. “Now I don’t take things for granted. I was one of those [people]. Things can happen. You should not live in fear, but be cautious, be vigilant.”
Some days, he is assigned to the desk, and other days he is on the road. “We are always alert, looking up for people who are up to no good,” he said.
He added that he prefers the night shift.
“We all work as a team and we got each other’s backs,” Cirri said.
Cirri is currently engaged to a woman from Medellin, Colombia who works as an executive assistant in Clifton. They will get married next year at the Palms Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla.
“We always loved going there; it is fun to have a destination wedding,” he said talking about choosing Miami as the wedding location. He has been “working a lot” to save for it.
He said he will eventually have a family. If his son decides to become a police officer, he will encourage him, but he’ll ask him to go to college too.