One year ago, The Post met with a dozen children of 9/11 - youths who lost parents in the trade center attack - to see how they were adjusting on the tragedy's first anniversary. Recently, The Post revisited three, Tommy, Ronnie and Bobby Gies, whose dad, Lt. Ronnie Gies of FDNY Squad 288, died on that fateful day in 2001.
As three courageous young Long Island men continue their trek toward manhood, the anguish over the loss of their firefighting father, killed on 9/11, is intensifying.
Since last year's anniversary, Tommy, Ronnie and Bobby Gies candidly admit the days somehow became even tougher, the discomfort more apparent - even though they know of better times ahead.
Tommy, 20, who was studying fire sciences at the University of New Haven, has since dropped out. He missed his family and made the decision to push his studies aside and return home to the comforts of the Merrick house his dad rebuilt after a December 1999 fire ravaged the structure.
Tommy picked up a job servicing firefighting equipment, resumed his volunteer duties with the local fire department - where his dad used to be chief - and applied to become one of the city's Bravest.
He scored 98 on the written test and 100 on the physical, and within a year's time could be accepted by his dad's extended family, the FDNY. While it's great news, sadness lingers. "It would have been nice to have him here and pat me on the back," Tommy said. "A lot of things come up that remind me of my dad."
Ronnie, 18, found this year to be more difficult, too.
He started his freshman year at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut last month and witnessed everyone else moving into their dorms with the help of their fathers, said Ronnie. "It's rough," he said.
Just like last year, he's keeping busy to ease the hurt, hanging out with three new roommates, sharing moments with his girlfriend and marching toward his goal of becoming a sports agent.
The youngest of the brothers, Bobby, 15, is now a junior at Calhoun HS, and up until four months ago, he held his own.
But since then, the realization his father was no longer around "just started to hit" him, and now a memory of his dad can make him angry, causing him to become "miserable" - even "a jerk" sometimes to his girlfriend.
"Every day I wake up and just play it by ear - hope I don't have a bad day . . . I'm growing up without a father," said Bobby. "I go day by day and just want to have a smile on my face."
With all the sadness and anger bubbling to the surface, the Gies boys are still resolute to accomplish their goals, soothe their aches and honor the memory of their dad.
And mom Carol says she's there to show her kids "there's a light at the end of the tunnel." Deep down, her children know.
An example? Asked if he was eager to join the FDNY in the months to come, Tommy enthusiastically replied with three words: "Can't friggin' wait."