NEW YORK CITY — The city's head of public safety took his job literally by plunging into the choppy waters of the Jersey Shore and dragging two little girls from the grip of a strong undertow.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who chairs of the council’s Public Safety Committee, performed the dramatic rescue with his brothers Saturday.
He had been relaxing near his family's summer getaway in Long Branch, New Jersey when “all hell broke loose," he said.
Just after 5:30 p.m, a group of about six young children started making their way into the raging waters — even though swimming had been barred all day and lifeguards had headed home.
"The ocean was crazy rough all day," Vallone told DNAinfo.com New York.
Before he knew what was happening, he said, two of the youngest girls had been swept out by the current, and were drifting quickly toward jagged rocks.
The brothers sprung into action.
“I ran to the water's edge and started yelling to the girls, 'Come in! Come in!'” said Perry Vallone, one of the councilman's younger brothers.
When he realized the girls couldn't swim back, he jumped in, with his younger brother, Paul, close behind.
Perry was the first to reach the girls, who were both under 12 years old.
“I grabbed the first girl and took her to the shore," he said.
Paul rushed the second little girl, who "was about 10 feet away from being smashed by the rocks off the jetty" when Peter spotted the commotion from his beach chair, he said.
“I threw my paper down and I sprinted as fast as I possibly could down to the water,” said the councilman, who had worked as a lifeguard for seven years when he was younger.
“We both managed to pull her in, working together against this really bad undertow," Peter said of the girl, named Melanie.
Perry said he was amazed by how fast his older brother ran.
“I honestly can tell you that it felt like the cavalry coming. It looked like he was running on the water," he said.
When the three brothers returned to the beach, Peter said they were met with a standing ovation. The girls' parents also “thanked us pretty profusely," he said.
Despite the ordeal, Peter said that Melanie, who looked to be about eight years old, remained calm.
“She was really sweet. She just kept thanking us all the way," he said, adding that the girls were already back in the water swimming the next day.
But the incident left the rescuers shaken.
“It was very scary... Another few more second, they were out past the jetty, into the rocks," said Perry, who said he hoped that talking about the incident would remind people about the dangers of swimming after hours, when lifeguards aren't on guard.
Vallone first recounted the incident on his Facebook page, where he warned fellow parents about the conditions.
“My brothers and I just had to save 2 girls swimming after the beach closed and lifeguards were gone scary stuff but everyone's ok thank God Keep an eye on your kids people the ocean is nuts right now and don't swim without the guards!” he wrote.
The tale had many fans singing the rescuers' praises.
“Who needs the Avengers when you have the Vallones!” wrote one of the Councilman’s many Facebook followers.
“Jersey Shore remade featuring ‘The Astoria Attorneys Who Swim,’” wrote another. “Snookie will be played by Christine Quinn.”
The councilman was more modest about the experience.
"It's really not the way I wanted to be spending a beautiful Saturday evening," he said.
"But I guess once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard."