NORTH BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was an emotional reunion on Long Island as a Suffolk County police officer who saved a girl’s live six years ago watched her graduate from high school Saturday.
Officer Matthew DeMatteo has been by Sarah Thalhammer’s side through both the proudest and scariest moments of her life. The two hugged moments after she got her high school diploma Saturday.
“She’s going into college and she’s going to do very great things,” Officer DeMatteo said. “I’m very, very, very proud of her.”
The ceremony was made extra special because if not for DeMatteo, Sarah may not have even made it to graduation.
“It shows that miracles happen and I’m grateful for that,” Sarah’s mother Michaela told CBS2’s Reena Roy.
Six years ago, Sarah fell into the icy waters of Great South Bay while struggling with a neighbor’s dog.
“I couldn’t really do much because the ice was so slippery,” an 11-year-old Sarah said at the time. “He dragged me and we got to a spot where the ice was thin and I fell through.”
Thankfully, Officer DeMatteo came to her rescue. He pulled her to safety despite falling into the treacherous waters himself.
The two made it back to shore in a happy ending that could have taken a much deadlier turn.
“It was so close, if someone had come later she probably would’ve been floating underneath the ice,” Michaela said.
The ordeal created a bond that will last a lifetime.
“For this story which could’ve easily become a tragedy, to be a success and have such a, you know, Disney ending if you will, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Officer DeMatteo said.
Michaela tells CBS2 that the Suffolk officer is now like extended family, and “that won’t change forever.”
Sarah plans on attending college in upstate New York in the fall.