The trek marked the first time that the Cirri family had visited Ground Zero since the attacks.
"The kids were never really ready to visit the site," said Weehawken native Judy Cirri, the ex-wife of the fallen officer. "I asked them from time to time, but they didn't want to go. But since the Port Authority took us over to have the tests done, Bob asked if we could go. We went to the family platform. The kids left a picture of their father and were able to write a message on the railing. I think it helped, because it brought them a little closer."
"It was really remarkable to see," said the younger Robert Cirri, now 18. "Where the Towers stood was the last place my father was. It helped a lot to go and see it."
"It was actually a little weird, seeing that big hole," 14-year-old Jessica Cirri said. "It was hard to see."
While the Cirri family left the site, they learned that recovery workers had located another body at the site where the south tower stood.
"We heard it on the radio," Judy Cirri said. "We said to each other how ironic it would be if the body they found was their father."
It wasn't. However, two days later, Cirri's body was indeed found - and it confirmed a five-month belief that the Guttenberg native died a hero.
Cirri's remains were among the bodies of six PA police officers found last Saturday morning at Ground Zero, all found within 25 feet of each other, apparently trying to help carry an injured woman, still strapped to a first-aid chair, to safety.
According to PA police officials, the woman was apparently injured and was unable to walk. The officers were in the process of bringing the woman to safety when the tower collapsed. The police officers were found, huddled over the injured woman's body, as if they were trying to protect her from the falling debris.
Cirri, a trained paramedic who spent 10 years as a volunteer EMT with the Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad, was thought to be administering medical assistance to the injured woman.
Two other officers located at the site, including Captain Kathy Mazza, were also paramedics.
"When I found out that he was helping a civilian, I said, 'Yep, that's my dad,'" Jessica Cirri said. "I had no doubt in my mind that's what he would do. If someone was hurt or injured, he would have went back in to help them. He died a hero."
"They were dubbed heroes five months ago," Judy Cirri said. "But this confirms it. That was the way Bob was. Even when I was working [as an EMT], Bob would follow sometimes, just to make sure I was fine. It didn't surprise me that they found him helping people. I just knew he would be there."
Lt. Robert Cirri received a proper burial last Tuesday in North Arlington. A funeral service was held two months ago, but the burial, complete with PA police officers, gave the family a sense of closure.
"We still have a heavy burden of sadness, but now, we have a grave site to go to and pay respects to my father," Robert Cirri said. "All these months, we didn't go to the site, then we go and a few days later, they find him. It truly is amazing."
"It was almost like he was waiting for us to go before he was found," Jessica Cirri said. "It still hurts and it brings back the memories of what happened. For months, we couldn't believe he was gone. But now that his body has been found, it gives a sense of reality to it."
Kid joins ambulance
The Cirri family also has this sense of pride - but they had that long before Lt. Cirri's body was discovered with his other fallen comrades.
"He really is a hero," Robert Cirri said. "He was safe, but he chose to go back in and help people. He found a woman who needed help and he was trying to help her. He probably helped thousands of others who got out because of him. No doubt about it. For 24 hours a day, he was a cop and he was a paramedic."
The elder Cirri had so much of an impact on young Robert that the 18-year-old senior at St. Joseph of the Palisades High School wants to directly follow in his father and mother's footsteps. He is already riding in the Weehawken ambulance with his mother on Wednesday nights - like Robert and Judy Cirri did while they were married more than a decade ago [they were divorced and both later remarried]. Robert also hopes to become a police officer like his father.
"I want to continue to do what my father did," Robert Cirri said. "I hope to live up to his name as a police officer and as a person."
"I'm so proud of that," Judy Cirri said. "He's riding with me now and we're awaiting the test scores to see if he becomes an EMT. He wants to be a police officer and hopefully, the PA will grab him. Hopefully, he'll get his father's badge number."
Judy Cirri has one last hope - that the identity of the injured woman found with her ex-husband can be attained. "What we would love to do is meet the family of the woman and get together to share stories," Cirri said. "To have the families of all the officers and the family of the woman get together, but that is somewhere down the road."
For now, the Cirri family can live with the assurance that Lt. Robert Cirri died a hero, giving his life the way he was trained to do, both as a police officer and as a paramedic. They knew it all along. Now, they know for sure.