While returning from a friend’s residence the morning of Sept. 22, three Pennsylvania College of Technology students found themselves entering a burning building to help those inside get out safely.
While recounting their story recently, the students said there wasn’t much time to do anything but take action and go into the burning house at 512 Grier St.
“We were heading home. And we were just kind of walking back and we hear an alarm. It doesn’t sound like a car alarm, it’s more like a home security alarm. We were just kind of ignoring it. …. Then Leo noticed the smoke, the flames shooting out and you hear the glass breaking. Then we started to hear people’s voices,” remembered
Tommy Veres, a sophomore building science and sustainable design major from Scarsdale, N.Y., of the events leading up to the rescue in the early morning hours.
Without thinking, Veres, along with Leo Tejeda, an architectural design major from Rochelle, N.Y., and Anthony Rode, a construction management major from Lords Valley, sprang into action.
While Rode went to a nearby intersection to get the street name and call 911 for emergency services, Veres and Tejeda went to the front porch to see if they could get the occupants’ attention to vacate the building.
Once the two realized their attempts at alerting those potentially inside the residence were unsuccessful, they noticed a child’s stroller and knew they needed to get inside the home.
The door was unlocked and, upon entering, they found that the home actually was four apartments.
About this time, Rode arrived back at the building and immediately went to the first-floor residence, while Veres and Tejeda went upstairs.
“We’re knocking on the doors and the one guy was laying down on his mattress, and I guess he was unaware of the fire,” Tejeda said of the experience.
After telling the occupants about the fire, they urged them to leave while the students continued knocking on doors. Unable to get an answer at a third-floor apartment, which is where the fire seemed to be coming from, Veres again tried to see if anyone was there.
“We got them out of the house and that’s when (Veres) kicked the door down (to the third floor). He was trying to go upstairs and that’s when I pulled him back,” Tejeda remembered.
Veres said the entire stairway was ablaze going to the third floor but he wanted to see if anyone was there.
By the time emergency responders arrived on the scene, the three students had helped four individuals and four cats to safety.
But their work wasn’t done yet, as Rode, who serves as a firefighter in his hometown, continued helping by spreading out the hoses for those responding to the fire.
After telling their families about the ordeal, the students said they were proud of their selfless act.
“My parents were in shock. ‘Why would you do that’ (they asked). Then I told them the whole story and they were like, ‘Good job. You did a good deed.’ Yeah, I feel good,” Tejeda said.
The three students said they weren’t sure what was running through their minds at the time, but they merely acted on adrenaline. Veres added that when seeing the stroller, there wasn’t any other option but to go in.
“I mean, what were we thinking, actually? I never really thought about it honestly,” Rode said. “It’s not that it came naturally, it just seemed like the right thing to do.”