When New Jersey State Trooper Michael Patterson made a routine traffic stop on June 1, he had no idea he would be in for a reunion three decades in the making.
After Patterson pulled over retired police officer Matthew Bailly for a minor traffic violation in Kingwood Township, the two struck up a conversation when they discovered that long ago, Bailly had served in Piscataway, the same township where Patterson grew up.
“We started talking because I’m also from Piscataway. We started talking about guys that we know, different locations that we’re familiar with,” Patterson, a father of three, tells PEOPLE. “Then we started talking about the street I grew up on, Poe Place.”
As the men chatted, it slowly dawned on them that this was no ordinary encounter.
“Mr. Bailly said, ‘Why do I remember Poe Place?’ ” Patterson recalls. “As he kept thinking, he remembered he delivered a baby on that street.”
Turns out, in 1991, Bailly was called to Piscataway when a woman who had been out shopping suddenly went into labor. She was able to rush home as her husband phoned a doctor, and with Bailly on the scene listening to instructions, he helped to deliver the woman’s baby boy.
Interestingly enough, Patterson is also familiar with a similar story of a baby being born with the help of a quick-thinking police officer. It was a story he heard multiple times throughout his life.
“My mom tells that story once a year on my birthday,” Patterson says while laughing. “Every single year!”
After hearing Bailly describe the neighborhood to a tee, 26-year-old Patterson slowly realized who he had in front of him.
“I’m thinking, where is this going? So I asked him how long ago he delivered the baby, and he said it was going back around 27 years,” Patterson says. “Then he went as far as describing the house I grew up in… Then he said the baby’s name was Michael.”
With that, Patterson had heard all he needed to confirm he had just stopped the man who had delivered him nearly three decades ago.
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“I just extended my right hand,” says Patterson, “and I said, ‘Sir, my name is Michael Patterson, it’s a pleasure to meet you, and thank you for delivering me. ‘ ”
The two men then relished in the happy coincidence that reunited them after so long.
“My mouth dropped, and he was in complete awe!” Patterson says. “It was a moment we will never forget!”
The two exchanged contact information, and as Patterson returned to his vehicle, he quickly told his mother, Karen Patterson, who he had just pulled over.
“She was completely floored, completely awestruck,” he says. “It was a good time for every single member of my family, being a part of an experience that’s so unlikely. It happens maybe once in a lifetime.”
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Of course, Patterson let Bailly off without a ticket.
After the chance encounter, Patterson and his mother met with Bailly and his wife at their home, and they took photos and shared stories about the 27 years that had passed since the last time they were together. Patterson says he now has a new friend in Bailly.
“It feels awesome, I believe it was a divine encounter, I definitely think it was purposeful for us to meet back up,” he says. “I’m going to hold on to this relationship.”