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Six Port Authority Police (PAPD) K-9 officers graduated from their training yesterday (Friday), and each of the new canine graduates is named after a PAPD officer who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11.

The six K-9s and their partners line up after their graduation. Photo: PABD

K-9 officers Tazzo, Mazza, Nava, Romo, Mack and Gonja graduated from the latest 12-week class of the department’s K-9 unit. The dogs are tested on their ability to work with people, their obedience, and how well they pick up explosive scent odors on an everyday basis.

Each of the German Shepherd dogs from Hungary is named after a PABD officer who lost their life after 9/11. Mazza honors Captain Kathy Mazza, Nava — Joseph Navas, Gonja is named in honor of Officer Uhuru “Gonja” Houston, Mack — Officer Donald McIntyre and Tazzo — Officer John Cortazzo.

I’m heartbroken every day. I miss him every day

Patti Cortazzo

Patti Cortazzo’s husband, John, was one of the brave first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. “I’m heartbroken every day. I miss him every day,” she told CBS2 after the ceremony.

Cortazzo’s daughter, Gianna, said: “We remember our dad not coming home that night and not knowing when he was going to come home. It was scary.” He did get home but he and his K-9 returned to Ground Zero to help with the search. Officer Cortazzo and his dog died from 9/11-related cancer in 2009.

Officer Cortazzo and his dog raced to the scene to help at 9/11.

“There are a lot of first responders that are still getting ill and still passing away from 9/11,” said Anthony Cortazzo, John’s son.

As the 20th anniversary of the tragedy comes around, the PABD is honoring Cortazzo and five other officers by carrying on their names with the new canine graduates. The K-9s will take on assignments at terminals, as well as on buses, ships, trains and in cars

Officer Joseph Benedict has Tazzo (named after Cortazzo) as his sidekick. “He’s my best friend. We don’t go anywhere without him. I have really big shoes to fill, ’cause he was also a K-9 officer as well,” Benedict said.

Officer Joseph Benedict and partner Tazzo. Photo: PABD.

“It’s just such an honor and the dog looks just like the dog that we had that worked with my husband,” Patti Cortazzo said. “I told the dog to stay safe and to protect everybody.”

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