TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Two men from Western New York who recently joined Facebook and ‘friended’ each other, realized that they first met almost 45 years ago under extraordinary circumstances, and they hadn’t seen each other since.
Retired NYS Trooper John Ciccone of Clarence saw the name ‘Paul Alfieri’ appear in his list of suggested Facebook friends and recognized the name. Ciccone says he slept on it overnight before deciding to request a Facebook friendship with Alfieri.
Says Ciccone: “He messaged me back saying, ‘Mr. Ciccone, I have a bizarre question to ask you. Did you save a 5 year old boy’s life in 1972?’ “
Alfieri, of the Town of Tonawanda, says Ciccone sent a message back saying: “Yep. That’s me.”
That exchange, just a few weeks ago, soon blossomed into a friendship that has seen the men share a family dinner, coffee and personal stories on several occasions, and get together to play their guitars as fellow music fans.
Their experience together began in September, 1972, when Trooper John Ciccone was heading to duty on the NYS Thruway and heard a radio transmission about a child struck by a car in Batavia.
When John arrived on the scene with another trooper he saw 5 year old Paul Alfieri lying in the street. “I saw a bicycle and I saw Paul laying there unconscious. Nobody else was there. He was all alone, just a little boy right in the driving lane, all by himself, unconscious.”
John says the child wasn’t breathing so he immediately began CPR — mouth to mouth and chest compressions — for several minutes. He was able to get the boy breathing again and watched as the ambulance arrived and young Paul was driven off to the hospital.
Paul says he has ‘zero’ memory of the accident. He says his mother didn’t know that he left his home on his bicycle planning to cross the street to visit his friend’s house. That’s when a car hit him.
The 5 year old spent a month in Strong Memorial Hospital recovering from serious injuries that included broken bones, a severe head injury, and some paralysis. Paul’s parents took that time to write letters of gratitude about John’s heroic actions to the NYS Police and others.
John Ciccone won honors and a prestigious award from the State Police recognizing his heroism. Then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller sent him a personal letter commending his good work.
John visited young Paul a few times and gave him a small Trooper’s Stetson as a good will gift.
They parted ways in Batavia and never saw each other again — until Facebook brought them together almost 45 years later.
After they became Facebook friends, John and Paul met for coffee in a local Tim Horton’s cafe. Paul brought the Stetson that he treasured and saved all these years. They talked for two hours.
Both men enjoy playing the guitar. John plays with a group of fellow retirees in a musical group called “Noise in the Chapel.” Paul, who is an auto salesman, is also a songwriter and studio musician.
The two have plans to meet for musical sessions and conversation in the future. They have struck up a friendship that goes beyond Facebook. But they both credit Facebook with bringing them back together after their first extraordinary meeting decades ago.
“I wasn’t a Facebook person,” says Paul Alfieri, “and, meeting John through this and being here now, if it wasn’t for Facebook, none of it would have happened. So it’s changed my perspective in a profound way. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”