Scalding heat surrounded the fireman putting his life on the line for a vulnerable child close to death. Almost four decades later, they reunited. How would they react to finally finding the other person that changed their lives?
In the late 1900s, fireman Eugene Pugliese received a medal for putting his life on the line and saving a 4-year-old girl from a burning New York apartment building.
While the medal was a great honor, Pugliese always wondered where the little girl he saved was. He hung the Daily News article about the unbelievable day on his wall for over two decades.
[Left] Newspaper cutting of the story of Eugene Pugliese saving a 4-year-old Deirdre Taylor; [Right] Eugene Pugliese and a grown up Deirdre Taylor going in for a hug. | Source: facebook.com/FDNY twitter.com/MashUpStanleyT
SAVING THE DAY
Since the day she was saved, Deirdre Taylor also kept the Daily News article released in December of 1983 of the hero who rescued her.
On the day of the terrifying fire, Pugliese found the girl unconscious in a smoke-filled and burning studio, giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Luckily, she regained consciousness as the firefighter ran down many stairs and was whisked away in an ambulance. Taylor, now a nurse, always wanted to meet the man who ensured that she was still breathing.
Deirdre Taylor. | Source: twitter.com/NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt
A NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK
Finally, she got the chance to search for him as she left her new home in Virginia to fight on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York. However, she had her doubts, the nurse recalled:
"I didn't know if he was still alive, particularly after Sept. 11. Part of me thought I waited too long to track him down.[sic]"
Miraculously, while at work in the Big Apple, she spoke to a firefighter, who managed to provide Taylor with the phone number of her lifelong hero.
Eugene Pugliese in his uniform. | Source: twitter.com/NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt
A VOICE SHE THOUGHT SHE'D NEVER HEAR
She called Pugliese, and the two spoke about the firefighter's experience in Vietnam, their shared love for the Yankees, and the day of the fire.
Taylor said that the conversation was incomprehensible and that she sobbed for hours and hours following the call.
At that time, due to the intensity of the pandemic, the duo were not able to meet up in the flesh but communicated via calls and video conferences.
THE LONG-AWAITED EMBRACE
However, they were finally able to hug one another. Sharing pictures of the reunion on their Facebook page in 2021, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) wrote:
"On Saturday, June 19, retired FDNY Firefighter Eugene Pugliese Ladder 20 reunited with Deirdre Taylor, who he rescued from a fire in 1983."
There were multiple pictures of them at the fire station. One included the ex-firefighter and Taylor going in for a heartwarming hug.
ALL ABOARD THE ONLINE PARTY
The post gathered 1900 reactions and just over 100 shares. There were also 39 comments, all full of positivity and joy. Many commented on what a beautiful story it was with John Molloy penning:
"Such a great story. I'm so glad she took the time to find and thank Eugene for his rescue and [for] giving her the ability to have a healthy, happy life. God Bless."
Several individuals thanked first responders for their service to the community and thanked the retired firefighter for his heroic actions.
Deirdre Taylor. | Source: twitter.com/NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt
While those in the comment section were full of festive feelings, no one was more joyful and grateful than Taylor herself, who said:
"Without him, I wouldn't be here. I had a second chance at life, thanks to him."
Heroes walk among us every day. Even if they aren't saving children from burning buildings, a simple decision to buy a homeless individual some food or even just a compliment could save someone's life.
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