Well over a million people have watched a touching moment posted to TikTok in which Nicholle Reyes, a 911 dispatcher for Fairfax County, surprises her dad by telling him he’s being promoted within the Alexandria Fire Department.
With the news, Samuel Reyes became the department’s first Hispanic battalion chief.
The video that touched hearts and raked in tens of thousands of likes across social media starts with Nicholle Reyes’ voice.
“Hi dad, it’s Nicholle. On behalf of Fire Chief Smedley, the rest of your family... it is my honor to announce your promotion to battalion chief,” she said.
She made the surprise announcement over a radio, in a building just down the hallway from her father.
“It was such an honor to be asked to celebrate him in this way,” Nicholle Reyes said.
What her father didn’t know was that everyone was waiting to congratulate him. In the video, he can be seen wiping away tears as his daughter and others come into the room where he sits to hug him.
“It was a total surprise. I have never been surprised like this in my life,” Samuel Reyes said.
The new battalion chief joined the Alexandria Fire Department in 2001. For one of his first assignments, he responded to the Pentagon on 9/11.
Twenty years later, he is one of just a handful of battalion chiefs in the entire department and the first Hispanic battalion chief in Alexandria.
His niece Kathy Lozatta recorded the moment.
“My uncle is one of the best people I know. The most selfless person, so if anybody deserves it, it’s him, and I am so proud of him,” she said.
Samuel Reyes was taking it all in.
“For us, you know my family, we celebrate when somebody buys a new pair of shoes,” he said. “We always find a reason to celebrate. I come from Puerto Rico, so my family over there is overjoyed. We celebrate each other. So, it’s been a great experience. I’s been pretty cool.”
And as far as the TikTok video, let’s just say the entire family can’t believe how many people are watching it.
“I think it’s at 1.3 million views,” Lozatta said. “Not that you’re checking,” her uncle teases.
Smiles, cheers and tears from family and millions of strangers online welcomed Battalion Chief Samuel Reyes into his new role.
“It’s a lot of weight on your shoulders but the Alexandria Fire Department has done an amazing job preparing me for this,” he said.