Conor McDonald Monday officially joined the ranks of the New York Police Department, a dream nearly 24 years in the making.
McDonald, son of Police Officer Steven McDonald, who was shot and paralyzed from the neck down while on the job in 1986, becomes the fourth generation of the family to wear a police badge.
"It's in my blood. I just want to help people," said McDonald, 23. "I feel ecstatic."
McDonald's class of 1,147 new police officers - the largest class since 2008 - was sworn in shortly before noon Monday in Madison Square Garden. Their first shift will be on New Year's Eve and many will be working in Times Square, directing the large crowds that are expected to attend, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
"You are no longer bystanders, you are police officers," he told the new officers.
Despite a blizzard that knocked out Long Island Rail Road service to and from Penn Station before the graduation ceremony and slowed subways and buses, thousands of family and friends were on hand to cheer on the new officers.
Kelly said the ceremony was not postponed because it could not be rescheduled because of other events at the venue.
Both Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg paused during the graduation ceremony to acknowledge McDonald and his father, Steven, whom Bloomberg called a "legend in the NYPD for the bravery he showed in battling back from near-fatal gunshot wounds."
Steven McDonald was shot in 1986 while on patrol in Central Park and paralyzed from the neck down. His shooter, 15-year-old Shavod Jones, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and died shortly after his release.
Despite what happened to him, Steven McDonald said he had no reservations about his son becoming a police officer.
"My wife does, of course," he said, adding that his wife, Patricia, is the mayor of Malverne.
"We're the best police department in the world. How could I not be confident that he's going to come home every night?"
Asked if he had any advice for his son, McDonald said, "I tell him to always be in control of what he is doing and be in control of himself."
His son said, "I'm nervous - I'm not petrified. I've got butterflies."
He added: "Now I have to pay my dues out on the street."