COLUMBUS, Ohio — When little Jahid Mitchell walked into the Central Ohio Fire Museum and Learning Center, he was wide-eyed and ready to explore.
It was his 2nd birthday, and he was reuniting with the man who saved him from a burning home last fall.
"It’s awesome," said Columbus Fire Investigator Mike DeFrancisco. "It’s a celebration of his life, and he’s still here to celebrate that."
On Aug. 23, 2018, Aleasha Mitchell saw smoke filling her home and rushed upstairs to get her children.
"Everything was — it’s kind of a blur, it’s kind of a blur," she said. "I just remember waking up in the morning and I remember lighting a candle, and that’s all I remember. And, next thing I know is, I can’t see. There’s smoke and I’m trying to figure out what just happened and how we’re going to get out."
She, Jahid and her older daughter Zion got out by climbing through a second-story window onto an overhang. Zion jumped to safety on her own, hurting her back in the process.
Things were more complicated from there.
"He was just a little baby and I was nervous, but at the same time, there were so many emotions," Mitchell said. "It was more of an 'I can’t believe this is happening.'"
That morning, DeFrancisco just happened to be investigating an arson in the area. He saw smoke, went to investigate and, moments later, he was making a catch that would stay with him long after that day.
Ther heroic act was even caught on video.
"I looked, and I thought — you know, it’s a great catch, and he kinda just landed underneath when I grabbed him. Kind of landed underneath his arms and I was just so happy that I caught him and didn’t drop him or fumble him or something like that," he said.
That's why DeFrancisco was happy to help celebrate Jahid's birthday at the museum on Thursday. And Mitchell was grateful for the chance to say thank you.
"It leaves me speechless, like, I don’t even know the words to say. I’m just grateful," Mitchell said to DeFrancisco. "It’s a blessing. And thank you for following your instincts, thank you, because I don’t know why you came, I really don’t, I don’t know what brought you to my house, but whatever it was, I’m so happy, I’m so grateful, thank you, and thank you for catching him."
But DeFrancisco was quick to point out that his colleagues make similar rescues every day.
"The guys on the street out there, in your fire departments, your communities, are doing this stuff every day and they’re putting it on the line every day to make sure you’re safe, or to save your loved ones, and it’s the same thing for the policemen," DeFrancisco said. "It’s tough times for all of us right now, but these guys are out there, putting themselves out there and willing to sacrifice for the community, you know, to make sure people are safe. And that’s what our job’s all about."