A childhood friendship, several coworkers, a few unique coincidences, and one highly trained dog with a very special name brought three families together for an emotional meeting at a midtown Manhattan firehouse on August 31.
Asaro, a two-year-old half Labrador, half German Shorthaired Pointer was named for Carl Asaro, one of the 343 FDNY members killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center. On September 11th, 2001, Firefighter Asaro responded from the quarters of Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9, where he had spent his entire 14-year career. Asaro was trained as a bomb-sniffing dog by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and is part of the TSA Puppy Program, which names puppies it trains to honor those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. When Asaro was put up for adoption, Valerie Hexner, a TSA employee from Westchester was the owner randomly chosen. “We wanted a guard dog for the family, and one that was highly trained,” Mrs. Hexner said. “When we researched the name to see where it came from, and learned it was an FDNY Firefighter we wanted to meet his family and visit his firehouse.”
Enter Natalie Crilley and Maria Crilley. Both are TSA employees who read about Asaro and Valerie Hexner in the TSA’s internal newsletter. Natalie’s father and Maria’s husband is FDNY Lieutenant James Crilley of Engine 274. Lt. Crilley was a childhood friend of Firefighter Asaro, and their families had stayed close over the years. The Crilley family contacted Firefighter Asaro’s widow, Heloiza, and helped arrange the firehouse meeting.
“I was shocked at first, but I was so excited to meet them and the dog,” Mrs. Asaro said. “There’s something of Carl in that dog because everyone seems to love him, and he offers such love to everyone he meets, just like Carl did.”
Mrs. Hexner added, “This dog represents Carl, the FDNY and this city. He was bred for a purpose, to be a line of defense.”
Firefighter Asaro’s three sons are looking to carry on his name in the Department as well. His sons Carl Jr, 24, and Matthew, 23, both took the 2011 FDNY Open Competitive Firefighter Exam, and their brother Mark, 18, hopes to do the same in the next several years.