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Students Commended for ‘Selfless Act’ of Heroism in City Fire Rescue

Three Penn College students have been administratively commended for alerting the occupants of a burning building and leading them to safety early on Sept. 22.

Anthony V. Rode, of Lords Valley; Leonardo Tejeda, of New Rochelle, N.Y.; and Thomas P. Veres, of Scarsdale, N.Y.; were honored this week through certificates of appreciation from college President Davie Jane Gilmour and Elliott Strickland, chief student affairs officer.

“Penn College students make a difference in our communities every single day, but they aren’t always recognized,” Strickland said. “When we learned of this incident, we felt it was important to acknowledge this selfless act that made a huge impact – potentially lifesaving – on the community we share with Williamsport residents.”

From left, Thomas P. Veres, of Scarsdale, N.Y.; Leonardo Tejeda, of New Rochelle, N.Y.; and Anthony V. Rode, of Lords Valley; hold their certificates outside Penn College's administrative offices.
From left, Thomas P. Veres, of Scarsdale, N.Y.; Leonardo Tejeda, of New Rochelle, N.Y.; and Anthony V. Rode, of Lords Valley; hold their certificates outside Penn College’s administrative offices.

The three young men, who live together in the college’s Campus View Apartments, had turned onto Grier Street while headed home from visiting friends on Memorial Avenue.

“As we were walking back to our dorm, I heard an alarm of some type,” Tejeda said. “It was obvious it was not a car alarm, but a house alarm of some sort. I said, ‘Do you guys hear that?’ Anthony replied, ‘Shut up, it’s probably a burglar alarm going off.’ As we got closer to the alarm, I looked up and saw a dark cloud and said, “No, look, that house is on fire.'”

Rode (son of a retired New York Police Department sergeant) went down the block, determined the nearest intersection and called 911.

“As Thomas and I waited for Anthony, we could hear the windows shattering from the heat coming from the fire,” Tejeda said. “We started to yell to get the residents’ attention, but nobody came out of the house.” The commotion managed to alert the neighbors, but the three found it necessary to go inside the burning 512 Grier St. building to notify the tenants.

“Anthony tried to get the homeowner’s attention from the first floor, Thomas and I ran up the stairs,” he said. “As we were running upstairs, I noticed the door going to the third floor was on fire.” The students knocked on second-floor doors, telling apartment occupants to get outside to safety. One of those residents was lying down and was not aware of the fire; the other was panicking and trying to grab valuables.

“We made sure no one else was in the second-floor apartment,” Tejeda explained. “After doing so, Thomas kicked down the door on fire and we were yelling upstairs to see if anyone was up there, but there was no response. Thomas tried to go up the first step, but I pulled him back and told him we should wait for the fire department.” Once they were satisfied that everyone was out of the house, the three went outside and were questioned by Penn College and Williamsport police.

College Police Chief Chris Miller joined in the presentation of certificates, held near Strickland’s office in the Student and Administrative Services Center.

Rode is a construction management major, Tejeda is an architectural technology student and Veres is enrolled in building science and sustainable design: architectural technology concentration.

The students’ story is also featured in the Oct. 10 editions of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

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