Thirty years ago, Officer Joanne Jaffe was one of the first responders at the Palm Sunday Massacre, in which 10 victims were killed in Brooklyn. Someone handed Jaffe the sole survivor—13-month-old Christina Rivera, whose mother and two siblings were among the victims—and pictures of the pair appeared on newsstands the next morning. From that point on, Jaffe remained a fixture in Rivera's life—and last year Jaffe adopted Rivera, now 31, reports the New York Times, which is telling their story for the first time. "I was assigned to her and fell in love with her," says Jaffe, who initially asked to take Rivera home after watching over her at the hospital and a police station 30 years ago Tuesday. Instead, Rivera was reunited with her father and ended up living with her grandmother, but Jaffe visited frequently, playing with Rivera and often bringing gifts and money.
As Rivera got older and learned about her mother and siblings' deaths, Jaffe was there to answer her questions and support her, and Rivera eventually started thinking of Jaffe as her mother. She went on trips with Jaffe and her then-fiance, and when Rivera was 14, she moved in with them for about a year. After moving out to live with her father, she remained close with her surrogate parents, who eventually helped send her to college. Rivera eventually got a job with the state and is also an auxiliary police officer, and last year, after her grandmother died, Jaffe made good on a longstanding promise to adopt her. "I can’t imagine my life without her," Rivera says of her mom. "She taught me what it was like to hope and to truly trust." The full article is worth a read.