Before that cold January day in 2009, they were comrades. Brothers in blue. Police Officers. Since that day,they became friends for life .
There's much more to the story of Officer Paul Dondorfer and Officer Anthony DiPonzio.
They share a love for their families and their jobs. They are connected by a life or death moment that one cannot remember while the other will never forget.
"We heard the words no one wants to hear: shots fired. Officer down." Dondorfer recalls. He still gets emotional remembering that day. Knowing he could have lost the man who is now one of his best friends.
DiPonzio was shot in the head. Dondorfer and other officers knew they needed to get him to the hospital. So they drove him there in a squad car.
Dondorfer in the back seat, cradling DiPonzio's head and talking to him so he wouldn't close his eyes. "Words of encouragement. Keep fighting buddy. Keep your eyes open." That's what he told DiPonzio, while at the same time keeping his airway open, so he could breathe.
Thanks to the heroic work of Paul Dondorfer and his fellow Rochester Police Officers, as well as doctors at the hospital, DiPonzio not only survived, but was able to return to work.
Dondorfer says fate puts him in the right place at the right time to help people. He learned that after the 9/11 attacks. He responded while an officer on the New York City Police Department. He couldn't save lives that day, but worked tirelessly to find remains of those who died, so their families would have some peace.
He returned to Rochester in 2004 and joined the RPD, so he could be home, closer to his family. Timing put him in the right place again a few weeks ago.
A stroller with two children strapped inside, rolled into the canal.
He and a partner, Adam Alliet, were having lunch. They heard the call and knew they needed to go.
Dondorfer assisted with CPR on the young boy telling us: "When we pulled him out of the water, he was blue as can be, the doctor gave him quick breaths, and I stepped in to help." The officers also helped assist in the rescue of the young girl.
The young boy is doing well and his sister, is now improving. Dondorfer says those are his rewards for helping people.
Don't call him a hero. But you can call him a lifesaver. Just ask his best friend, Tony DiPonzio.
Dondorfer and DiPonzio marked the 9/11 Anniversary together at a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. Though they rooted for opposite teams, they know each has the others back.
That's a friendship for life.