NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The FDNY family grew a little bit bigger on Thursday, welcoming hundreds of new emergency medical technicians.

It was a day of pride, accomplishment, and for one graduate a special surprise.

The pomp was appropriate for the achievements being celebrated; 145 new emergency medical technicians graduating from the FDNY EMS academy.

“It’s truly special to say you save lives for a living, and today that’s a statement you can proudly make,” FDNY Deputy Commissioner, Laura Kavanagh said.

On Thursday, Joseph Bitetto picked up his diploma and got a big surprise.

“I feel like I’m in a dream right now,” he said.

Bitetto and his mother Josephine both almost died on the day he was born 22 years ago.

Her placenta ruptured at 28 weeks.

FDNY EMTs saved both their lives.

Graduation seemed like an appropriate time for a reunion.

Former EMT Howard Blanck, now an NYPD detective, was reunited with those he saved back in 1996.

“It’s great to see everyone is doing fine, and it’s good to see he’s working for the city now,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have him, and I wouldn’t be here, so I’m just grateful,” Josephine said.

The FDNY coordinated the surprise after getting a letter from Bitetto’s dad.

“I thanked the police officers who came that day, but I never had the chance to thank the EMTs,” Nick Bitetto said.

On Thursday, he did.

New EMT Bitetto has already helped deliver a baby himself during a training rotation.

Also graduating on Thursday, EMT John Martin, whose father FDNY Lt. Peter Martin was killed on 9/11.

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