Fast-Thinking Students Save Lives

OCC Students Mohamad Al Hariri (left) and Irakoze Boris (right) helped escort people out of a burning house in Syracuse.

The evening of Sunday, January 27 had already been a memorable one. Onondaga Community College students Irakoze Boris and Mohammad Al Hariri along with Henninger High School teacher Joyce Suslovic and Corcoran High School student Ceraphin Wasso had just finished attending the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at the Carrier Dome. The featured guest was comedian and author Trevor Noah, host of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning “The Daily Show.”

Suslovic was driving the three boys home and her first stop would be Park Street where Boris lived. The evening took an unexpected turn as she approached Boris’ house. “I looked up and saw smoke coming out of the second story of a house several houses away,” said Suslovic. She drove down the street, pulled up to the burning house and everyone jumped out of the car. “There was a man walking around the outside of the house, “said Al Hariri. “We asked him if someone was inside and he said ‘yes.’” Suslovic dialed 9-1-1 as they all ran into the house. “There was a family inside,” said Boris. “We told them they needed to get out because the house was on fire.”

As Suslovic spoke with dispatchers at the 9-1-1 center and gave them the address where the fire was, the three students with her kept going through the house and making sure no one would be left behind. “As we were looking for people I went into the kitchen and saw fire on the side of the wall,” said Boris. “Once the family inside got their dog and cats, they all went outside,” added Al Hariri.

Shortly after everyone exited the house, the Syracuse Fire Department arrived on the scene. Where there had previously been smoke billowing from the second floor of the house there were now flames. Everyone made it out with little time to spare. “I was happy we got everyone out safely and no one got hurt,” said Boris.

The three students got back in the car with Suslovic and they talked about what they had just been a part of. “We were all in agreement. What if it was a member of one of our families? We would have wanted someone to rescue them,” she said. “We did the right thing,” added Boris. “We’re supposed to help each other in the community.”

As for the two OCC students, Al Hariri is in his first semester on campus and Boris is in his last. He will earn his degree in May and, fittingly, plans to become a Syracuse Police Officer. “I want to protect and serve the community and help people. I want to give something back.” He started doing so on the night of January 27, 2019.

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