By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff
During their formative years, many youngsters get their first ideas about careers from their parents. That tradition held true today, with the children of five officers who donned the Port Authority Police Department uniform for many years following in their fathers’ footsteps in joining the force.
Growing up, PAPD recruits Imani Brown, Brian Donovan, Michael Colona and Kristy Massaro saw their fathers putting on the PAPD uniform each day and wearing a prideful smile as they left for work. Recruit Gerard Ward saw pictures of his dad on the job; his father retired before he was born.
As they prepared for graduation from the Police Academy, the five “legacy” recruits reflected on lives growing up with fathers who came before them in the PAPD. They are part of a class of 124, which took part this morning in a ceremony at the World Trade Center where they received their badges. They will formally graduate tomorrow.
Brown, daughter of current PAPD Deputy Chief Michael Brown, said her father had a big impact on her career choice.
“I want to be just like my dad, cool and a go-getter,” said Brown, who graduated from East Stroudsburg University where she received a degree in criminal justice and also was a 1,000-point scorer on the women’s basketball team. “I can’t wait to go out in the field and make my own mark and make him proud.”
Colona said his father – active PAPD Officer Lenny Colona, with 26 years on the force — also influenced his career path.
“This job has definitely brought us closer together,” said Colona, who studied linguistics at the University of Miami and learned to speak Russian and Farsi.
Colona recalled seeing a photo of his dad, who worked in the Port Authority’s Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Unit at Newark Airport, during the recovery efforts after 9/11. It’s an image forever etched in his mind – his father was standing on top of a rubble with two of his colleagues, wearing a gas mask.
Massaro previously served as an New York City police officer. Her father, retired PAPD Officer Michael Massaro, has been her inspiration throughout the years and she said he’s definitely more excited about this graduation than her previous graduation from the NYPD.
“Seeing my father being a good person by helping people made me want to be that kind of person. I am so honored to wear his badge,” said Massaro, who received her degree in Business Administration from Saint Joseph’s College in Philadelphia. She previously served in the NYPD Anti-Crime Unit.
Donovan today became a third-generation PAPD officer, following in the footsteps of his father, retired PAPD Officer Patrick Donovan, and grandfather Patrick Donovan Sr., who started on the job in 1956.
“My family has been here for some important history and I am so humbled that I will get to be a part of it,” said the new recruit, a former corrections officer in New Jersey who graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice from Montclair State University. Donovan received a shield that has been in use for 48 years, encompassing his family’s PAPD service time.
The legacy recruits understand not only the good service they can provide as police officers, but the potential dangers they (and their fathers) face. Donovan vividly recalled crying when he saw the Twin Towers come down on 9/11, worried about his father’s safety. His father was not harmed during the attack.
Ward, a Manhattan College graduate, remembers dressing up in his retired father’s PAPD gear and playing cops and robbers with the neighbors’ children. Growing up, Gerard fell in love with the bagpipes and has been playing since the age of eight. His musical skills landed him a scholarship in 2013 from the Port Authority Police Pipes and Drums.
“It’s such an honor to follow my father’s footsteps after growing up hearing his stories,” said Ward. “I hope to become half the man he was.”