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Story highlights

Hours-long subway delay causes Hunter College nursing student to miss graduation

Jerich Alcantara decided to celebrate in the subway car with strangers

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the board exams Jerich Alcantara is taking.

(CNN) —  

It’s every New Yorker’s nightmare: missing a major event due to a random subway delay.

Jerich Alcantara, 22, was on the subway with his family on the way to his college graduation when someone pulled the emergency brake. He was scheduled to graduate with his class at Hunter-Bellevue College of Nursing on Tuesday.

“At first I was worried we’d be late,” Alcantara told CNN. “But once it was obvious we’d be late I was hoping maybe we’d catch the end of it.”

But Alcantara ended up celebrating his graduation in a quintessentially New York way: on the subway, complete with music and his graduation robes.

Alcantara and his family had left at 8 a.m. from their Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights to be on time for the 10 a.m. commencement in Manhattan. His train hadn’t even traveled one stop before the emergency brake was pulled, stopping the train in the underground tunnel. It took nearly two hours for a rescue train to eventually arrive and to take riders to the next stop.

“Everyone was really upset,” Alcantara said of the other riders on the train.

But Alcantara wanted to look on the bright side.

“It was starting to get to me a little bit, but I wanted to be positive because it’s my graduation day,” he said.

Alcantara, in his graduation robes, made an announcement to the car, thanking his fellow passengers for joining him for his graduation ceremony.

“I told them I appreciated them all coming and that it meant so much that they were there,” Alcantara aid.

His best friend had brought a speaker along to play music during the ceremony, so they decided to put on tunes associated with graduations, like “Good Riddance (Time of your Life)” by Green Day in honor of Alcantara’s replacement ceremony.

“Let’s play some graduation music,” Alcantara recalled telling his friend.

In a video shot by Alcantara’s father, a fellow subway rider snaps a photo of the graduate holding a cell phone in front of him like a degree as fellow riders look on.

Alcantara and his family eventually did make it to the Hunter College Brookdale campus where the graduation took place, only to see other graduates standing in the street in their caps and gowns. The ceremony was over. Now, Alcantara, who studied nursing, will study for his nursing board exams to become a fully fledged registered nurse.

At least the audience for his more unique version of graduation enjoyed the experience. The whole car cheered during his ceremony, Alcantara recalled.

“Everyone seemed to be in a brighter mood,” Alcantara said.

CNN’s Kwegyirba Croffie and Gisela Crespo contributed to this report