Living with a hero
I have a hero living in my house right now.
At the beginning of June, Pedro Infante-Posada was living in the Oak Ridge apartment building on South Fourth Street in Ames.
Pedro is a graduate student at ISU, working on his Ph.D. dissertation that studies the use of tropical corn grown in Iowa for the purpose of biomass. In early June he was also teaching a Spanish class each day and was enrolled in a three-day workshop.
These responsibilities were causing the 35-year-old, native Colombian to be an early riser, something he takes to naturally anyway. He likes to sleep with the curtains open so the early morning sun wakes him. In some ways, it’s as if he’s my exact opposite — running, waking up early, etc.
But in the early morning — I mean really early morning, like 4 a.m. — hours of Monday, June 6, when Pedro woke up, he immediately noticed a strange glow outside his window. Thank goodness he sleeps with the curtains open, because it helped him notice the apartment building was on fire.
Pedro woke his roommate Mitch, who at first thought it was a prank, but quickly became convinced of the serious nature of the situation. Pedro called 911. Then he ran up and down the hallway, knocking on doors, running outside knocking on windows, waking up his neighbors.
The fire departments from Ames and Nevada arrived quickly at the scene. Pedro estimated it took just a few minutes from the time he called 911. Firefighters had to rescue some of the tenants from their balconies on the three-story apartment structure.
Everyone survived. But everyone was left homeless, either due to fire or to water and smoke damage.
When I first read about the fire in the Ames Tribune, I thought: My son graduated from high school 10 years ago. He lives in Chicago now. Maybe I should offer one of the fire victims his room.
But it was easy to shrug that idea off and assume arrangements were already taken care of for the 75 people the apartment building had housed.
Then my niece Ranae, a post-doc research assistant at ISU, messaged me about Pedro. Finishing up his doctorate, thousands of miles from his home in Bogota, he needed a place to live.
That is how a hero came to live in my home. One of the first things he did was take the curtains off the windows in his room. And I supported his choice to do that.
For about three weeks, his mother Consuelo visited from Colombia. Although she stayed with one of Pedro’s friends that she’d met on a previous trip, she visited our house a lot. She was wonderful, and I miss her now that she’s returned to South America.
Consuelo speaks little English, and I speak little Spanish, but somehow we communicated pretty well together. And despite our language barrier and the relatively short amount of time we spent together, I grew to genuinely love her. I predict she will be a lifetime friend, as will Pedro, and I hope to visit them in Bogota sometime after his graduation.
Consuelo especially liked my dog Daisy, and I think Daisy misses her too. Consuelo would tell Daisy how muyamiga and muy linda she is, and teach her commands in Spanish. I think Daisy is becoming bilingual more quickly than I am.
But for now, I have wonderful friendships with both Pedro and Consuelo. I feel like I opened my home to Pedro, but in a way, he opened a new part of the world to me.
Ronna Lawless is a staff writer for the Nevada Journal and Tri-County Times. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter, @ronna67.