At an FDNY ceremony celebrating the graduation of 147 EMTs, a new graduate followed in the footsteps of another first responder who saved his life before he took his first breath.
Newly graduated EMT Joseph Bitetto had been born at home three month prematurely, and without the help of an EMT named Howard Blanck, his parents say they don’t know what they would have done.
"It was a desperate time because I didn’t know if I was going to survive—if the baby was going to survive—so it was frightening,” said Bitetto's mother, Josephine Bitetto.
Before his graduation, Joseph Bitetto's father Nick Bitetto decided to write a letter to the FDNY.
"My son's in the academy, he's becoming an EMT and following in the footsteps of people who saved his life," the father said. "I just had to write."
They responded with an incredible surprise.
At the graduation, the 22-year-old came face-to-face with the man who saved his life. Now an NYPD officer, Detective Howard Blanck was among the faces beaming up at the new graduates.
"This is fantastic," he said.
Following in Blanck's footsteps, Joseph Bitetto had already delivered a baby while a probationary EMT.
“I always loved the fire department and my mom always said I was meant to help people," he said. "So I thought this was a good direction.”