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He Rescued a Toddler in 1998, Gets Huge Hug 23 Years Later

Firefighter William Porter meets Jacob Tsukroff, now 26, whom he saved from a house fire
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2021 9:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – A retired firefighter who rescued a toddler from a house fire 23 years ago had an emotional reunion over the weekend with Jacob Tsukroff, now 26, in upstate New York. Per NBC New York, William Porter was among the responders who showed up at the burning house in Poughkeepsie on Jan. 31, 1998, where Tsukroff and his 4-year-old brother were trapped. Per the Poughkeepsie Journal, Porter and another firefighter, Brian Couse, found the boys in the home's basement; Porter carried Jacob out, while Couse carried Daniel out. Tragically, Daniel didn't survive. Later that year, when Porter received an award for rescuing Jacob, the firefighter's daughter, Jessica Scalamandre, then 9, found out what her dad had done and decided she'd one day reunite them. Last autumn, as Porter neared retirement, she finally tracked Tsukroff down and received a text from him. "I believe your father is the one that saved my life 23 years ago," it read. "I've been waiting 23 years to meet this man."

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Scalamandre worked behind the scenes to set up the surprise meeting at the Elks Club in Poughkeepsie this weekend, with Tsukroff, his parents and some siblings, and Couse and other firefighters who'd been there the day he was rescued. Porter himself was only filled in on what the meeting was about just moments before he entered the building. "I was a little apprehensive, but at the same time I couldn't wait," he tells the Journal, which notes he shook in his car for a few minutes before heading inside. When Porter and Tsukroff finally met, they shared a hug that lasted 11 seconds. "You've always been on my mind," Porter said to Tsukroff. "I've always wondered how you've been." Tsukroff, who says he doesn't have memories of that day, other than of his hospital stay, simply replied: "Thank you." Tsukroff has held onto one memento over the years: a teddy bear that Porter gave him after the rescue. The families also toasted Daniel during Sunday's get-together. More here. (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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