Toms River Police Officer Rebecca Sayegh ’15 wasn’t expecting what she called “too much craziness” working the midnight shift on the frigid night of January 28. But in the past five years on the job, she’s learned to expect the unexpected – and how to tell from the tone of the dispatcher’s voice when a call is serious.
And the tone that night was indeed serious.
With reports of a structure fire, Sayegh pulled up just two minutes later to find large flames coming out of the back of a home and neighbors telling her they thought the homeowner was still inside. As she ran to the front door, “I heard her yelling and pounding on the door. She couldn’t get out,” Sayegh said.
Sayegh recalls thinking, “I’m going to do what I would want someone to do for me. I’m going to break that door in, even if it takes me 20 times. Luckily it only took two.”
Sayegh rescued the homeowner, her two dogs and a cat through heavy smoke. Hailed a hero, she was featured in local media and on ABC 7’s “First Responder Friday” segment.
This was the third dramatic rescue in recent months by Montclair State alumni in law enforcement. In November, New Jersey State Trooper Corey Beczo ’15, a classmate and friend of Sayegh, saved the life of a distraught teen attempting to jump from a highway overpass in Camden. A few weeks later, Howell Township Police Officer Nick Volpe ’19 rescued a man from a burning car.
Sayegh stayed with the woman while firefighters put out the fire. “I was talking to her and making sure she was OK.”
Sayegh was inspired to pursue police work by an older brother, Jack Sayegh, a detective sergeant with the South Toms River Police Department. “I enjoyed seeing what he was doing with the community and I followed in his footsteps.”
Sayegh juggled her classes at Montclair State while training to become a police officer, her final semester commuting from Ocean County four nights a week after training to finish her degree in Justice Studies. “I actually graduated from the Police Academy the day after I graduated college.”
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren