A family legacy continues: ESU cop takes up mantle of NYPD father and FDNY uncle killed on 9/11

Joseph Vigiano Jr.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

More than two decades after first responder brothers Joseph and John Vigiano died on 9/11, their legacy lives on thanks to one eager New York City Police Department graduate.

Joseph Vigiano Jr. was just eight years old when his father, NYPD Emergency Service Unit member Joseph Vigiano and uncle, firefighter John Vigiano, were killed responding to the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. On March 9, Vigiano Jr. followed in his family footsteps by becoming an ESU member.

The six-year NYPD veteran is now also assigned to his father’s old beat: Brooklyn’s Emergency Truck 7.

“I took the job with the Police Department with the intent of one day becoming an Emergency Service Officer, that was a goal from an early stage of my career,” Vigiano Jr told amNewYork Metro on March 13, looking back on his emotional graduation at Floyd Bennett Field last week.

Emergency Service Members demonstrate a wide skillset at Floyd Bennett Field. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell
The new graduates of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit team repelled out of an helicopter on their graduation day in front of their friends and family at Floyd Bennett Field.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Coming from a background of serving in the Marine Corps Reserves for six years and having one tour of duty in Afghanistan, in which he says he lost friends, he went on to win the Student Award, putting him in the top of his class while undergoing rigorous training to become an ESU member. 

“This was something that at one point seemed so far away, and to finally have put in the effort and time and get to the position I want to be in… it’s definitely an emotional experience,” Vigiano Jr said. 

Kathy Vigiano is excited for her son, Joseph Vigiano Jr. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

As it turns out, Vigiano Jr. comes from a long line of first responders. His grandfather, John Vigiano Sr., is a captain with the Fire Department of New York, and his mother Kathy was also a cop serving Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct, where she met his father while serving together. His great-grandfather on his mom’s side was also a cop.

Vigiano Jr. recounted to amNewYork Metro that his mother wept at his graduation.

The NYPD ESU of which Vigiano Jr is now a member is a part of the Special Operations Bureau. The elite group tackles some of the city’s most harrowing emergencies, from criminals who have barricaded themselves inside buildings and hostage situations to those threatening to end their lives by climbing atop bridges.

Vigiano Jr.’s vigorous training included learning how to deal with special weapons and hazardous materials, scuba diving, what to do during structural collapses, and more.

Joseph Vigiano Jr. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Now, Vigiano Jr. will work alongside the same individuals who not only worked alongside his dad, but also served as surrogate parents and inspired him while growing up.

“Just watching the videos of him and how much he loved his job and meeting his co-workers and friends and being around them as I grew up without a father, and with these paternal figures and my grandfather, it made me want to join the police department,” Vigiano Jr. said.

Despite all that he has lost, from friends who died in the armed forces to loved ones who died while serving New York City, Vigiano Jr. is still determined to continue his family legacy.

“It’s very important work. It’s fulfilling just for me, personally speaking,” he said. “It is a very particular kind of person that puts themselves in that kind of position and these are the kind of people I like being around.”

Joseph Vigiano Jr. with his wife and child. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell