A Long Island man who nearly drowned in a canal near his home last month while trying to save his puppy was reunited Tuesday with the hero who saved him.
Nick Secchi, 49, of Freeport, embraced his rescuer, Blaise Gibson, 45, on the porch of Secchi's home.
"You're my hero, man," Secchi said.
A source with knowledge of the March 4 rescue helped NBC 4 New York locate Gibson, a local contractor from Wheatley Heights. A short time later, NBC 4 New York escorted Gibson to the home of the man he had saved from the frigid waters of a canal off Atlantic Avenue in Freeport.
Neither man knew the other's name and they had not seen one another since Secchi was taken to the hospital.
"I only did what I would hope someone would do for me," said Gibson, who has been working on Sandy-damaged homes in the Freeport area.
Hours earlier, Secchi had reached out to various news outlets asking for help in finding the man who had saved his life.
"My children have a father today, my wife has a husband today, all because this man was loaded with courage and took the action he took," Secchi said hours before the emotional reunion. "All I want to do is thank him. I want to hug this guy, tell him what a great guy he is."
Secchi, a retired New York City sanitation worker, had nearly drowned while trying to save his puppy, Baby Girl. The terrier mix had jumped into the canal after breaking loose from her owner during their daily walk in the park adjoining the canal.
Secchi followed the dog into the water and was able to grab and place the frightened pooch on a retaining wall. But Secchi couldn't pull himself out of near-waist deep mud and remained in the water for some 25 minutes.
"My body was starting to freeze, I was starting to lose the ability to move, and I think it was pretty much the end. It was about waiting out my death at that point. I knew I was going to die," Secchi said.
Seconds later, Secchi saw a head peering over the wall. Gibson had seen both the dog and its owner go into the water while taking a break in that same park. After a few minutes, he came over to investigate.
"I was nervous for him," Gibson said. "I did all I could to get him out."
At Secchi's urging, Gibson first pulled the shivering dog from her perch on the wall.
Next, Gibson extended a hand down to Secchi and tried to pull him from out of the water. When that failed, Gibson threw Secchi a hose, but that wasn't enough. Finally, 911 was called and with the help of at least one Freeport police officer, Gibson was able to pull Secchi to shore.
"You have to see what you saved," Secchi said, as he introduced his wife and two daughters to Gibson. Each hugged the man who had helped give their husband and father a second chance at life.
"You restored my faith in humanity," Secchi said.