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FDNY celebrates 25th annual Second Chance ceremony

The ceremony reunites FDNY first responders with the people they have saved in the past year


Rev. Jeffery Thompson was preaching to his congregation last year when he collapsed on the altar.


Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

When he woke up in a hospital bed four days after collapsing from a heart attack in front of 200 congregants at the Amity Baptist Church, the first thing Pastor Jeffrey Thompson did was thank God.

The next thing he did was thank the FDNY for making sure he had another day to give praise to the Almighty.

“I am eternally grateful for the people in the church and for the first responders,” Thompson told the Daily News. “I owe them a debt of gratitude and a great big thank you.”

Thompson, 50, will be able to deliver that message in person when the FDNY holds its 25th annual Second Chance ceremony on Tuesday, where FDNY first responders are reunited with the people they saved in the past year.

“First thing I’m going to do is shake their hands, then I’m going to give each of them a great big bear hug,” Thompson said smiling. “This was a matter of life and death and to get to meet the people who saved my life is a tremendous opportunity.”

“There’s going to be plenty of prayer, blessings and thanksgiving, that’s for sure,” he said.

When he woke up that fateful morning, Oct. 28 was just another blessed day for Rev. Thompson. He was looking forward to a spirited service at his 108th Ave. house of worship in Jamaica. When he proudly walked in with his sermon titled “I Love My Church” tucked under his arm, he was glad to see Evenday Wilson in a pew.

“She had not been in church in a few months,” he recalled.

Thompson walked up to the pulpit and made a few announcements but never got to the sermon.

The next thing he knew, it was Thursday and he was in a hospital.

His congregants told him that he had passed out after going into cardiac arrest.

Call it fate or divine intervention, Wilson, a nurse, ran up and started performing CPR on him as 911 was called.

Firefighters Lee Nolan, Robert Bressingham, Kevin Heaney, and James Hayden of Engine Company 275 led by Lt. Christopher Garaizar were first to arrive. They used a defibrillator on Thompson, but he wasn’t responding.

The firefighters never gave up hope. With the help of responding EMTs Kimberly Suarez and Maxony Lexine along with Paramedics Giovanni Reggler and Shaun King from Station 54, first responders used CPR, the defibrillator and an IV of resuscitation medication to bring Pastor Thompson back.

Thompson regained consciousness in the ambulance on the way to Jamaica Hospital, but he doesn’t remember it.

“They said I was out for 18 minutes,” he said. “The only thing I remember was waking up Thursday.”

On Tuesday, Thompson plans to bring a few congregants to the Second Chance ceremony where he will meet all of the first responders who helped save his life. And he has invited Wilson and congregant Vernon Hill, a state police officer who also administered CPR.

Thompson will be one of 10 cardiac patients who will be reunited with first responders during the event at the Liberty Warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The group includes an on-duty firefighter and a bagpiper who succumbed to a heart attack after performing at a little league pregame ceremony.

For the silver anniversary, the department is also welcoming back seven survivors who were previously reunited with their first responders.

“Our annual Second Chance celebration demonstrates the life-saving and life-changing impact FDNY EMTs and Paramedics make for their patients,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “This event is an opportunity for our members to see the positive outcome of all their hard work, dedication, discipline, and training.”


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