NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Fire Department added 240 new members to its ranks, handing out diplomas to trainees at a ceremony marked by six empty chairs -- seats symbolically held for classmates who died at the World Trade Center.
Thursday's training academy graduates were the first since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but they still leave the department more than 100 shy of filling all the places of those lost in the trade center collapse. Officials listed 343 firefighters as missing or killed in the Sept. 11 attack.
In addition to the 240 rookie firefighters who graduated, the six who died were awarded diplomas posthumously. The chairs that marked their places were draped in purple bunting and blue FDNY uniform shirts.
"We will remember their bravery in all that we do throughout our lives," said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a department chaplain.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani noted that many trainees were assigned to firehouses and worked during the attacks, receiving a special initiation into the perils of their profession.
"You've had to face the worst," Giuliani told graduates. "We always knew we were the best. Now the whole world knows we are the best."
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