Shammarah Hamideh describes Sergeant Joseph Barca as her “second father” since he brought her back to life in her Yonkers, New York, home when she was just a two-month-old baby.
And 20 years later, he watched her walk down the aisle.
On December 28, 1993, the New York police officer was the first on the scene after getting a call that an infant was not breathing just a few blocks from where he was patrolling.
Barca arrived while the father of the infant was holding the child in his arms. The Sergeant started performing artificial respiration, he rolled the two-month-old baby over and used the obstructed airway technique, which involves striking her back repeatedly until a ball of mucus comes out. Then she began breathing again.
The baby was taken urgently to the hospital and made it through the terrifying experience.
That day ended up being the start of a close relationship. The two families grew close after Barca saved Hamideh’s life. A few months after the incident, Barca was asked to dinner at the house of the Palestinian-American family.
The two families keep in touch on a regular basis. Early in the 2000s, the Hamideh family relocated to Buffalo, but Barca continued to frequently send Hamideh birthday cards and check in via phone calls.
“After it happened, her father told me, ‘We gave her life the first time, and you gave her life the second time,’ and that’s the way they’ve treated me ever since,” Barca said. “They have said, ‘You’re her American father.”
Hamideh turned to a young woman in her 20s when she decided to get married in 2014.
Barca, who keeps in touch with the Hamideh family all these years, and his wife Helen would fly out to Chicago to attend the wedding.
Hamideh got married to Mohammed Salah, a truck driver, and planned to move to Chicago.
“It’s almost like a fairytale,” Barca told TODAY. He said when Hamideh called to tell him about the wedding, he responsed “‘Just give me the date, and it will be no problem getting out there.’ It’s just a wonderful feeling that you can’t put into words.”
“He’s so sweet,” Hamideh told the Westchester Journal. “He’s very considerate — every year on my birthday, he sends me a birthday card and check. They treat me like I’m their daughter.”
During his career with Yonkers Police, Barca saved dozens of lives, including rescuing people trapped in the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks.