Port Authority K-9 Sergeant Kenneth Harris, 47, was recognized on November 8 for his heroic actions in saving the life of retired FDNY firefighter John Deliso, who suffered a heart attack while driving on the Belt Parkway last year.
The emotional reunion took place at Deliso’s former firehouse on Staten Island during a ceremony hosted by the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
During the meeting, Harris and Deliso shared hugs, tears and laughter.
“You saved my life. Without you, I wouldn’t be here with my kids. I pray for you every day,” Deliso shared gratefully.
The incident occurred on a hot August day in 2022, as Harris was driving from JFK airport to Port Newark.
Spotting a car hitting the highway divider on the Belt Parkway, Harris immediately jumped in to help.
With assistance from a good Samaritan, 69-year-old Army veteran Raymond Ponce de Leon, Harris pulled Deliso, who was unconscious, from the vehicle.
“I saw the sergeant’s patrol car with its lights on, and I just immediately pulled over. I wanted to help,” Ponce de Leon recounted.
Harris, unaware of Deliso’s identity, performed CPR after checking vital signs.
Deliso’s pulse returned before the ambulance arrived, and he was taken to Brookdale Hospital for emergency heart surgery.
At the ceremony, emotions ran high as Deliso’s mother and father expressed their gratitude to Harris. Deliso, a married father of three, acknowledged the significance of the reunion.
“This is one of the best memories I’ll have from this place,” Deliso said.
Ponce de Leon, also honored at the event, was surprised to learn that Deliso had survived.
“I thought he was gone! I’m quite sure that God saved his life,” he said.
FDNY Battalion Chief Rick Flood described Deliso’s challenging recovery, overcoming a heart attack and a two-week coma.
“It took … months, but he pulled through. But none of that would have happened without these [Harris and Ponce de Leon]. I believe God put these two men in John’s path that day,” Flood said.
The president of the Port Authority Sergeant’s Benevolent Association, Robert Zafonte, commended Harris’s selfless dedication and announced his recognition at a future medal ceremony.
“He went above and beyond, and to me, that’s just an example of his selfless dedication to the profession and the people he wants to help. He is a humble, humble person, and I can tell you that his actions are a good example for the department on how to conduct yourself while you’re on and off duty,” Zafonte said.
Deliso’s wife, Toni, emotionally thanked Harris, acknowledging the impact his timely intervention had on their lives.
“If your husband hadn’t been there… I don’t know what … I know I’d be a widow right now,” she said.