Still in his medic uniform, Jack Lin had stopped on his way home from church at a Jackson Heights pizzeria for two Sicilian slices when people outside began screaming for his help.
Lin found Nicholas Esposito face down on the cold ground late last Friday, suffering from cardiac arrest. He went to work in an effort to keep him alive.
In a feel-good holiday moment, the two met again Christmas Eve at Elmhurst Hospital Center as Esposito - still plugged with tubes, the welt where he hit his head still black and blue - thanked Lin for saving his life.
"If you weren't there, forget it," Esposito said as the two exchanged handshakes for cameras. "I would have been a goner."
A choked-up Lin said it was nothing more than his duty.
"I am just here for the ride," he said, adding it was God who gave Esposito a second chance. "I feel like I am getting a lot more credit than I personally deserve."
For Esposito's mother, who had already lost three of her five children to heart conditions, the save was a miracle.
"I didn't know what I was going to find when I got here," said Antoinette Esposito, whose three daughters died at 37, 42 and 53. "It's the most beautiful gift I have got for my whole life. I couldn't get anything better. That's how I feel."
Lin's heroism was showcased Thursday during a week when two emergency medical technicians have been under fire for allegedly refusing to help a pregnant woman, who had collapsed in a Downtown Brooklyn cafe where they were on break. The woman and her unborn baby later died, and the EMTs have been suspended without pay as authorities investigate.
Lin, 25, of Jackson Heights, is an EMT with an FDNY unit in Astoria. He has been on the job for a year and a half. Esposito, 53, of Ridgewood, has been a hospital security guard at Elmhurst for eight years.
The two cross paths all the time, but last Friday, Lin didn't realize it was Esposito he was administering chest compressions to.
"I recognize him now," Lin said Thursday. "I have seen you before at the hospital now. To realize who you were, it is amazing."
For Esposito, who was making his daily stop for a cup of coffee before reporting for his midnight-to-8 a.m. shift, it was a lucky break.
"He is truly one of the lucky ones because most people who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest don't make it or have significant neurological damage," said Dr. Deborah Reynolds, a cardiologist at Elmhurst.
Every second counts, she added, "and the longer you wait, the harder it is to get the heart started again."