A 28-year-old Marine veteran who lost both legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device graduated from the Suffolk County Police Department Academy Friday, and officials say he's believed to be the first fully active duty double amputee cop in the nation.
Matias Ferreira was on a tour of duty with the Marines in Afghanistan in 2011 when he stepped on the explosive; he lost both legs below the knees.
"As soon as I landed I knew something was wrong because it was like a movie almost. I heard a noise and everything went black," he said. A bomb had gone off beneath his legs, amputating both below the knees. "I just saw blood throughout my pants."
He was evacuated to a local hospital. Within days, he was back in the U.S. being treated for his injuries. Three months later he was wearing prosthetic legs.
The bilingual, Uruguay-born Ferreira not only passed "all the rigorous challenges of the SCPD's 29-week academy training," he was elected class president by his peers, officials said, and will speak at the graduation ceremony this weekend.
"I just really want to be able to help people," said Ferreira.
Ferreira moved to the U.S. when he was 6 and grew up in Atlanta before joining the Marines. Following the amputation of his legs, Ferreira played on an all-amputee softball team that traveled the country playing against teams comprised of amputee military veterans and law enforcement personnel. It was while he was traveling as part of that team that he met his wife, Tiffany, in 2012.
The couple lives in Wantagh, New York, with their 2-year-old daughter Tianna.
Ferreira acknowledges the job will bring challenges, but approaches his new career with a sense of humor. He said he was once asked during academy training whether he has concerns about injuries.
"If I break my leg, I go in the trunk and put on a different one and I keep on going," he said.
He lives by the motto that "life without limbs is limitless."
"The only disability we have is the ones that we make," he said.