ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Alexandria, Virginia Nurse Deirdre Taylor says once her husband began working from home eight weeks ago, and she knew her kids would be safe, she signed up to head to New York City at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She brought with her an old newspaper clipping from December 30, 1983 which is the day an FDNY firefighter saved her life. She was just four years old. Taylor had tried to track him down over the years without luck but she was hoping to find a new lead during her free time.
One night local firefighters delivered dinner to the hospital staff and she asked one of them for help. He was able to put her in touch with the correct fire station and when Taylor called they knew exactly who she was taking about.
Pugliesi, now a retired firefighter, says for years he’s had that same newspaper clipping hanging on his wall.
Pugliesi was awarded the Walter Scott Medal for his bravery that day and says, “I was in the middle of checking out a broken pipe on the street when a man came up and alerted me to an apartment fire. I didn’t even have my gear on, just a helmet and an ax.”
He ran in and dragged out a woman who was screaming “my baby, my baby, my baby!”
Pugliesi went back in, crawling on his stomach, and found four year old Taylor. He carried her out and performed mouth to mouth resuscitation.
The retired firefighter says upon receiving Taylor’s call his eyes welled up with tears, “I literally cried and I’m on cloud nine and she did make a 75 year old man very happy that she’s such a wonderful woman.”
It’s come full circle. As Taylor prepares to head back to Virginia, with just a few E.R. shifts left, her time working with COVID-19 patients in New York has touched countless lives. “It’s been a life changing experience,” says Taylor. “The icing on the cake was meeting my real life hero.”
The two hope to meet in person when it is safe to do so.