A former goalkeeper recently put his quick reflexes to good use.

Luigi Barbanera, who now works as a guard at an Italian penitentiary, was passing by a building in Cantù on Dec. 9 when he noticed a commotion. A young child was leaning dangerously over the ledge of a second-floor window. So the 45-year-old did the only thing he could think of -- he positioned himself under the windowsill and caught the falling toddler in the nick of time.

Though the impact of the fall knocked both Barbanera and the 23-month-old Ryan to the ground, it seems the older man was able to cushion the blow. Neither was injured in the accident.

"To tell you the truth, in the moment I felt completely powerless. I didn't even know what I would do. Five minutes passed before I saw the baby move its leg forward wearily and fall," Barbanera told Italian-language newspaper Corriere della Sera.

According to local reports, the toddler's mother left her sleeping child alone momentarily while she hung laundry up to dry. When she returned to discover the 23-month-old was missing, she rushed down to street level and discovered the boy was safe in the officer's arms.

Now, Barbanera is being hailed as a hero in Italy for his quick thinking. The penitentiary officer is expected to receive a commendation from Italy's minister of justice, and will also be considered for a civic merit award bestowed by the mayor of Cantù.

But Barbanera believes he was just in the right place at the right time to make the life-saving catch. "Fate made me pass by the road at that time," he told Corriere della Sera.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Saint of a Bus Driver

    City bus drivers may not always have the most compassion for those who aren’t watching where they’re walking, but then again, some will leave their vehicle to save a life. NYC bus driver Steve St. Bernard (who, naturally, has a license plate that reads “Saint”) was driving along when he noticed a seven-year-old autistic girl standing atop an air conditioning unit three stories high. The girl’s mother had stepped out of the room for a moment, but luckily, the 52-year-old father of four was there to catch her. “Please let me catch her. Please let me catch her is all I could say,” he told reporters after suffering a torn bicep tendon — something he says was a small price for saving a life. Citing his paternal instincts as responsible for his heroic deeds, St. Bernard told reporters: “A hero is a sandwich. I just saw a kid and that’s it.”

  • Subway Superman

    NYC subway riders are known to pack in cramped spaces without a second thought, but one 50-year-old construction worker took that to a whole new level. On Jan. 2, 2007, Wesley Autrey, now dubbed the “Subway Superman,” was waiting on the platform with his two little girls when he noticed a man suffering from a seizure, causing him to fall onto the tracks. Knowing there wouldn’t be time for the train to stop, Autrey jumped on top of the man, praying he could keep him from flailing long enough to allow the train to pass on over them both—a clearance of 21inches high. Wesley and the man topped out at 20.5 inches.

  • Pro-Wrestler Thwarts Unruly Passenger

    It’s widely held that professional wrestling is fake, but try telling that to the drunk and disorderly bus passenger who found himself in a rear naked chokehold at the hands of a former WWE star. After cursing at and threatening to kill passengers on a Minnesota train, Levin Blair was apprehended by pro-wrestler Shawn Daivari and thrown off the train at the next stop, leaving him for the police.

  • Train Track Rescue

    A wait for the train turned nearly fatal at a Washington metro station when a young man stumbled over the platform — just as a train began to approach. Seeing from across the way, a retired Marine pointed to the crawl space underneath the platform before taking matters into his own hands by jumping across the tracks, dodging the electrified third rail, and hoisting the man to safety — a selfless act that could have proven lethal for himself as well, had he made contact with the 750-volt rail.

  • Former Gang Leader Saves Cop

    When Dallas police officer Billy Taylor was attacked outside a shelter, he found a savior in the most unlikely of heroes. A former Crip gang leader, Charles “Chuck” Alexander, came to Officer Taylor’s aid when a belligerent man arrived at the shelter fueled on PCP. After seeing his fellow homeless friends and Taylor being accosted, the 45-year-old Alexander stepped in to intervene, body-slamming the suspect before police backup arrived on the scene. Taylor walked away with a few dislocated fingers and other minor injuries, but it could have been much worse had his newfound ally not been on the right side of the law at the time.

  • Backseat Driver Hero

    Some quick thinking and an attentive backseat driver helped avert a disaster in Milton, Washington. During a routine bus ride full of middle schoolers, 13-year-old Jeremy Wuitschick noticed something off with his driver. "I knew something was wrong," <a href="http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Students-stop-bus-after-driver-suffers-heart-attack-146672835.html">Wuitschick told KOMO News</a>. "The bus driver… looked funny. His eyes were bulging, he was sitting back and his hands were flapping around." What did he do? He remembered his reading, citing a “book about superheroes” that reminded him to turn the vehicle’s ignition off and steer the bus off to the roadside. While the 43-year-old driver, Ryan Callis, was sadly out too long to pull through after being taken to the hospital, the ordeal could have proven even more fatal had Wuitschick not acted quickly. “I didn’t think,” said Wuitschick. “I just did it.”

  • Boy Saved From Bronx Burning Building

    A young boy screaming from an apartment fire in the Bronx made his cries for help just in the nick of time, as a Good Samaritan from the street below noticed him before the child lost consciousness. The stranger on the street raced up the building, shielding the child’s limp body from the smoke and flames while bringing the boy down to safety. Both the child and hero made full recoveries, suffering only from minor smoke inhalation.

  • All for One: Motorists Come to Biker's Aid

    A tale of not one, but several Good Samaritans: A motorcyclist who collided with a car in Logan, UT., found himself helplessly pinned under a blazing wreck only to be pulled out by a group of several bystanders and fellow motorists who stopped to help. With the strength of several, the roadside heroes were able to lift the car and bring the man’s body out from underneath.