Police officers are fundamentally meant to give people hope. We are the ones that count on them to make things right in an impossible situation, and they almost never fail.
Sally Zheng had a rough childhood. Both of her parents had severely abused her, and it had gone on for years without end.
NYPD Officer Ralph Torres rescued Zheng from her parents, and helped put her in foster care.
“For someone who went through many years of abuse, it was the first time I felt safe,” Zheng told CBS New York on Torres. “He calmed me down.”
After the intervention, Torres gave Zheng his phone number, and Zheng was going to use it to find him once she got settled into foster care.
But she lost the number, and that was the only way she knew to contact him. However, she wasn’t going to give up on finding the man that had changed her life.
Zheng eventually became a police officer, not only to help others like Torres did with her, but to make it easier to find him as well.
As soon as she got the job, she wasted no time trying to find him, asking fellow officers if they knew an Officer Torres. She even wrote a letter that she wanted to give to him, in which she said he was “the hero that once gave me courage.”
But Zheng had not made any progress towards finding him.
“I just want to tell him that I’m doing very well,” Zheng said.
She wanted to thank him, and show him that his actions turned her into the brave woman that she is today. Even though she could not find him, she hoped that he was wondering how she was doing, after all these years.
Then, during roll call for her department in May 2017, she got her wish.
NYC Police Commissioner James P. O’Neil addressed Officer Zheng’s Brooklyn unit—then, he started talking directly to Zheng.
“You know Officer Ralph Torres?” O’Neil asked her. She remained silent. Then she was asked a question she’s been waiting decades to be asked.
“Would you like to meet him?”
Zheng was still speechless, unable to fathom that it might be true. Then, Officer Torres came out and surprised the girl he had saved all those years ago.
After 20 years, Zheng had been reunited with her hero, Officer Torres.
He simply said, “Hey Sally,” and they embraced.
“It felt like I just gained another daughter,” Officer Torres said. Had Torres not intervened 20 years prior, who knows what state Zheng would be in today. And both Zheng and Torres know that.
When Zheng finally got to ask him if he was proud of her, he replied with, “very much so.”
Torres can now be there to support Zheng in her role as an officer—and provide closure and healing from her past.
“You never know what effect you’re gonna have on people,” he said.
Now, he’s seen firsthand that the little girl he saved 20 years ago is now a strong, brave member of the NYPD.
Watch the heartwarming video below: