It had been 20 years since Firefighter Erik Wiener (retired 2009) and Arif Wedderburn met.
On May 7, 1996, Firefighter Wiener of Ladder Company 111 responded with his fellow firefighters and officers to an apartment fire in a high-rise building. Firefighter Wiener arrived to find then 16-year-old Yanique Livermore hanging upside down outside the window of her fully-engulfed eighth floor apartment. Firefighter Wiener rescued Livermore, then returned to the apartment and located then three-year-old Arif Wedderburn, who was unconscious between his bed and a wall.
In the rescue, Firefighter Wiener suffered second-degree burns to his back and lacerations requiring stitches to his forehead. He received the Walter Scott Medal in 1997 for his bravery that day.
20 years later, Firefighter Wiener was reunited with Wedderburn and his family, at the quarters of Engine Company 214 and Ladder Company 111 in Brooklyn. The FDNY Foundation was honored to fund Wedderburn’s travel to New York City for the reunion.
“I woke up in the bedroom and the carpet was engulfed in fire. I started to cry, I didn’t know what to do. I tried to save my sister but I couldn’t get to her,” said Wedderburn, now 23. “Firefighter Wiener was an angel, he took me away and brought me out, and brought me back to life. He’s an angel sent from Heaven – him and other Firefighters who go out and risk their lives every single day. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him.”
“I’m not comfortable with being called ‘brave,’” said Firefighter Wiener. “I don’t think that what I did that night was brave. I was just being a professional. I was a professional Firefighter. It was always an honor to put the uniform on, and it’s still an honor today. I was never an individual. We came, we did what we do, and we left. We did our job.”
“I was a Captain here at 214, as was my father, so it’s a very proud day for me to recognize Erik,” said First Deputy Fire Commissioner Robert R. Turner, who served as Captain of Engine Company 214 from 1992 until 1999. “You can see this is a very storied house with a lot of great tradition. It has always attracted motivated men and women to work here, and Erik is a fine example of what goes on in this firehouse. Everyone in this firehouse is here for the community; it’s their desire to be in a position like Erik, to be able to help.”
In a letter to the FDNY Foundation, Wedderburn’s mother expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the FDNY and to the Foundation for its support of the Department’s critical mission.
“I want to thank you for affording my son Arif Wedderburn and us to attend,” Ivion Davis wrote. “We are just so grateful to Firefighter Erik Weiner who saved our son 20 years ago. We looked for this man all these years. We were so thrilled to be able to thank him properly. It was so beautiful and so moving when those two met for the first time. Your Foundation does a beautiful job.”
“The FDNY Foundation is honored to help make moments like these possible,” said FDNY Foundation Executive Director Jean O’Shea. “Moments like these are a tribute to the incredible work done by the men and women of the FDNY every single day and to their dedication to the life-saving mission of the Department.”
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To see more photos from the reunion event, click here.
"I woke up in the bedroom and the carpet was engulfed in fire. I started to cry, I didn’t know what to do. I tried to save my sister but I couldn’t get to her. Firefighter Wiener was an angel, he took me away and brought me out, and brought me back to life. He’s an angel sent from Heaven - him and other Firefighters who go out and risk their lives every single day. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him."