You can call it the happiest ending to a story that’s 16 years in the making.
This week, a woman who was saved by a New York firefighter in a 2002 Bronx apartment inferno was once again reunited with the man who saved her, the New York Daily News reports.
On that fateful June morning, Annisa Cruz, then just five years old, was at her parents’ apartment on E. 182nd St. when her father fell asleep while cooking. Bravest Stephen McNally responded to the fire that day. Upon first entering the fire-engulfed residence, McNally was able to rescue Cruz’s mother. McNally then went back in a second time to save the little girl.
He was later given a special medal for the brave choice he made that morning.
Cruz’s father fell victim to the flames, dying before he could be rescued.
On Monday, when an emotional Cruz reunited with McNally, she thanked the now-retired man for his bravery and selflessness the morning of the rescue. She later told the Daily News that she “wanted to give someone else the second chance” like McNally had given her.
Now a graduate from a Fire Academy in Florida, Cruz hopes to return the bravery in her own pursuit of a career in firefighting.
At the reunion, Cruz gave McNally a coin she had been awarded while in school. She also told him that she had written his name in her fire helmet as a way to honor what he had done.
The well-received reunion was a bit spontaneous, and almost never happened.
Cruz had returned to New York from Florida last week to visit relatives. On Friday, she stopped by the fire station where her hero worked and knocked on the firehouse door. She was told that McNally had retired and was not at the station that day. Luckily, he was able to return to the station on Monday, where Cruz greeted him and a dinner was held in his honor.
McNally told the Daily News that he was happy to be reunited with Cruz and to see “what she’s done with her life.”