Josibelk “Josi” Aponte’s and Peter Getz’s paths first crossed on the most critical day of her young life in 1998.
She was just five years old that summer day when she was pulled from a residential fire, unconscious and in cardiac arrest. Getz performed life-saving CPR in the back of his patrol car until he and his partner could get her to the emergency room.
19 years later, their paths crossed once again at another critical– but much more joyous– juncture in her life. On May 17, the 23-year-old graduated magna cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University, and the now-retired Hartford police detective was right there in the stands.
“I wanted to share my graduation with everyone who’s important to me, who have been there for me, and who helped me through tough times … I almost died, but I was given a second chance at life,” she said. “And it was because of Peter and all the authorities, everyone who came to help that day.”
Josi’s memories of the June 25, 1998, fire itself are vague. But she does remember trying in vain to wake her uncle, Jofrey Aponte, with whom she was staying in the family’s Hartford apartment while her mother was working. Getz, then a patrolman, took the little girl from a firefighter who had rushed into the building to save her, then performed CPR while his partner rushed them to a nearby hospital.
Jofrey Aponte died from his injuries, but Josi woke up several hours later; she still has the teddy bear that Getz gave her during her stay in the hospital.
She and her family eventually moved from Hartford and lost touch with Getz – but curiosity got the best of her a couple years ago, and she finally tracked him down on Facebook.
Getz remains humble about his part in the ordeal, saying he’s just “one cog in that wheel,” which also included dispatchers, firefighters and hospital staff.
“That’s how this process is supposed to work, that’s why we wear [the] uniforms we wear,” he added. Still, to be able to watch her obtain an accounting degree and move forward so successfully “makes my heart beat faster.”