PALISADES PARK, N.J. -- Nearly a year after rescuers pulled a young Palisades Park boy with autism from Overpeck Creek, his mother gathered the heroes together for a special anniversary celebration.
"Thanking Joseph's Angels" was the theme of the party thrown by Angela Cassese -- featuring her son, Joseph Cassese, now 9.
Palisades and Leonia police, Palisades Park firefighters and EMTs and paramedics from the town and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center attended.
"Just to be able to give these men and women a day of appreciation was the least I could do," Angela Cassese said. "They are the reason Joseph is still with me,.
"I will be eternally grateful for what they did."
Joseph, who doesn't speak had wandered off from his sitter -- but had an angel on his shoulder that day: By chance, someone in a Ridgefield Park office building saw him go into the water and quickly dialed 911.
Responders from several departments were at the creek instantly, witnesses said. The caller then led them directly to Joseph.
He was first taken to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck and later transported to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, where he spent several weeks in ICU.
He later completed rehabilitation at Children's Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick.
In the photo above:
Lt. Matthew Fink, Lt. Anthony Albanese, Sgt. Christopher Beck, Detective George Beck, Firefighters Charles Stark are in back. In front are Joseph and Meagan Levitzki, John DiStefano, Dan Butler and Max Moehl and Leonia Police Officer John Longo.
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