It was a Happy Father’s Day for Joseph Gugliara. He knew he was fortunate to have his 24-year-old son Filippo at his side when they attended the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Athanasius Church, Bensonhurst.
Filippo is the 24-year-old transit police officer who had been stabbed earlier in the week in Brooklyn while trying to make an arrest.
Msgr. David Cassato, pastor of St. Athanasius, who also serves as a chaplain to the NYPD, introduced Filippo to the congregation and praised him as a hero who showed great courage while trying to protect the public. The priest asked the officer to say a few words from the pulpit.
“I was saved because of my vest and the presence of my (late) mother,” said Filippo as his dad wiped away tears.
“I looked at the empty chair in my hospital room and I felt her presence. I knew my mother was there.”
The congregation responded with applause and a standing ovation as Filippo left the altar. At the end of Mass, Msgr. Cassato called the officer and several other policemen in attendance to the sanctuary for a special blessing to keep them safe in the line of duty.
The response of his fellow parishioners meant a lot to the officer who attended the parish’s elementary school. He said he couldn’t speak any more about the incident.
But the press has reported that Gugliara was on the platform of the Q train at Ocean Ave. when he heard a commotion. As he responded he saw a 58-year-old white-haired man in an altercation with a 78-year-old woman. When he stepped in and tried to arrest the assailant, the man pulled out an 11-inch hunting knife and stabbed the officer twice in the chest. An NYPD spokesman said that the strap on the bullet-proof vest may have prevented a more serious wound.
The officer responded by drawing his pistol and fatally shooting the man who was later described as a Ukrainian immigrant with one previous minor arrest.
Filippo was taken to NYU Lutheran Hospital in Sunset Park where he required several stitches and was held overnight. When he was released the following day, about 100 members of the Finest formed an honor guard outside the hospital and greeted him with applause.
Filippo told the St. A’s church community, “When you wake up in the morning, you never know what is going to happen.
“I want to thank everybody who came up to me and said ‘Thank you.’”
It’s just another reminder that our police officers have a tough job. Everyday they leave for work, they have no idea what they will encounter.
The people at St. Athanasius know that and they’re not reluctant to honor one of their own to show they care. It was a perfect Father’s Day gift for Filippo’s dad, Joseph.