On June 9, 2002, a New York firefighter became a “big hero” for a 6-year-old girl living in the Bronx.
Stephen McNally, now a retired lieutenant, was responding to a burning apartment building when he came across two residents in danger.
After rescuing a semi-unconscious woman, he was told her daughter was still trapped inside. Going back inside, McNally found the unconscious child and was able to save her from the fire.
From that moment on, McNally became a true hero to that little girl and her family. Nearly 16 years later, Anissa Cruz, now all grown up and living in Florida, can recall such a frightening childhood memory.
“I remember everything in the room got very hot,” the 21-year-old said. “I remember feeling suffocated. I was overwhelmed and terrified.”
Cruz’s father sadly passed away in that fire, but if it wasn’t for McNally, she wouldn’t be here today. Instead of losing one life, if Cruz hadn’t been there to help, three lives could’ve been lost.
Now, 16 years later, Cruz has had the chance to see her hero again — and she had some news for him.
A short Facebook video captured the two reconnecting at Engine 75 and Ladder 33 fire station in the Bronx. Cruz wanted to thank the man who has now inspired her to save lives as well.
In the touching reunion, the two embraced. Cruz would later tell her hero she is currently an aspiring firefighter herself.
“I am happy for her and the choices that she has made,” McNally said. “She is making a difference, trying to help people and that is awesome.”
Cruz recently graduated from the Fire Academy at Indian River State College in Florida. Her plan is to give people second chances in the same way McNally gave her a second chance.
Watching someone he rescued go on to live a fulfilling life must have been truly rewarding.
Many times, the people helped out of such situations go on to live their lives, but their rescuers never know how they turned out. This was a happy case, though.
“It was a difficult situation, seeing a child in that condition, but seeing all of her accomplishments is overwhelming,” McNally said of Cruz.
McNally has made a few achievements in his own career, like receiving a 2003 Arthur J. Laufer Memorial Medal in recognition of his bravery during the fire.
It’s heartwarming to know that his heroism has helped to shape the life of this young woman who is more than honored to follow in his footsteps.
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