Daughter Of NYPD Cop Killed In Line Of Duty Perseveres To Graduate From Hunter

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Three Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officers on Wednesday attended the college commencement ceremony for a woman they helped save after she was pushed onto the Metro-North Railroad tracks in White Plains.

She was one of several who graduated in a special ceremony at Hunter College for students who had overcome extreme challenges.

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As 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr reported, Maya Leggat said she feels happy and lucky to be graduating from CUNY Hunter College with the people she loves, and who care about her, by her side.

“I owe Hunter a lot in getting here, as well as these officers and my parents, so I’m very happy,” she said.

Leggat was smiling, but emotional, in her cap and gown.

In September 2013, Leggat was shoved from behind into the path of a moving train at the White Plains Metro-North station. She suffered a broken back, a severed finger, other broken bones and cuts.

“A homeless man hangs out in front here — decides he wants to inflict some pain to somebody, asks somebody for change,” newsstand operator Gary Waxman said at the time. “And one girl upstairs decides to come out of bathroom. She refused to give him money, and he pushed her in front of the train.”

The officers who saved Leggat and arrested the pusher joined her onstage at the ceremony at Madison Square Garden.

Retired officer Ted Uzzle jumped onto the tracks to rescue her, and saved her crushed legs by using a tourniquet, CBS2’s Weijia Jiang reported.

Uzzle said Leggat was amazing and tough after being pushed, and he never doubted she would make it.

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“The instant I met her, you could just tell she was special,” Uzzle said. “I know that sounds a little corny, but it’s true.”

Leggat went through extensive surgery and physical therapy, but she was determined to graduate on time, even asking teachers for work from her hospital bed.

“I Skyped with my professors and they sent me assignments and we did the best we could for as long as we could,” she said.

The man who pushed Legatt, Howard Mickens, pleaded guilty this past December to attempted murder in connection with the incident.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in January.

As CBS2’s Jiang reported, every student had someone who inspired them to make it to that graduation day. Also among the graduates was a young woman from Far Rockaway, Queens.

“If he was here, he’d be so proud because I know this is what he wanted,” said Hunter College graduate Kathleen Almonte.

Almonte keeps her dad close to her heart. NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra died last year in a Coney Island, Brooklyn apartment fire.

Guerra rushed into the building to look for victims.

“I’m taking it day-by-day,” Almonte said. “I will never be as brave as him, but I’ll try. I aspire to be like him.”

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Both graduates said what seemed like a life-shattering tragedy turned into a life-changing lesson on perseverance.