LYNDHURST, N.J. – If any of a group of public servants from Lyndhurst ever feels down, they can recall the night they saved the life of a popular local deejay whose heart stopped, his grateful wife told them during a special awards presentation.
Borough officials had already held their own ceremony, but Theresa and Dick Italiano wanted to do something special of their own for Nicholas and Paul Haggerty Jr., Dominic Rotundo, Isabella Maldonado and Charles Pelle.
“If I had it within my power, I would grant each one of you a life that is worry-free, pain-free and carefree,” Theresa Italiano told them Tuesday night at the Lyndhurst Senior Building, “a living, breathing world – a Shangri-La.
“But after all is said and done, I, being a mere mortal, can only do this," she said. "I would now like to have my husband and family join me...so we could look you in the eye, give you a big hug and say ‘Thank you’.”
The couple then presented each with a commemorative plaque that reads: "In Recognition and Appreciation of Your Life-Saving Response on March 17, 2017. The Italiano Family."
One of the speeches had just ended for the Lyndhurst Community Pride event that night at Michael's Riverside Restaurant when 74-year-old Dick Italiano went down.
"It was almost surreal as the music came to a halt and the guests were shouting to call 911," attendee Joyce DiMaggio said.
"He wasn't breathing. He was lifeless, with no pulse, for what seemed like an eternity," attendee Chris Bonelli told Daily Voice. "It was heart-breaking watching his wife plead for help."
Immediately rushing to the Wood-Ridge deejay's side were the Haggerty brothers -- whose mother, Karen, is on the borough Board of Commissioners.
Also moving quickly was Dominick Rotundo, who is also a firefighter and a member of the borough Police Emergency Squad, which will be celebrating its 75th anniversary with a September gala.
The Haggerty brothers were off duty, supporting their mom at the packed fundraiser, which featured bagpipers and children doing Irish dances.
Still, as Paul Haggerty said, "a responder is never off."
They got to work instantly.
"We took turns with compressions and giving breaths," Haggerty told Daily Voice. "The police got there less than a minute later and gave us a defibrillator. We gave him one shock and he came back to us."
"To see a guy come back like that -- you can't help but tear up," said Haggerty, 34, a former borough fire chief who is now the deputy fire commissioner.
"We could have not asked for a better outcome," LPES Capt. Tarcisio Nunes said. "I'm very proud."
As they wheeled him out, Italiano gave attendees high-fives from the stretcher.
"There are some times when all words become totally inadequate when trying to express a feeling, an emotion, and this is one such time,” his wife told the heroes Tuesday night.
“If ever in the future there comes a day, a moment, a second, when you may feel depressed or for some reason, feel not too good about yourself,” she added, “please look at it and let it remind you that because of you, because of YOU, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a father-in-law, a son, a brother, a friend lives.”
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