Daniel didn’t die

Daniel Fiser is the first to admit he’s a thrill seeker.

He’s also the first to admit he took it too far on July 19.

Daniel is the young man we “saved” by sheltering him in the basement of the Times-Republican just before an EF-3 tornado unleashed on Marshalltown.

My colleague and I hollered and screamed at Daniel as he fought debris-filled winds heading eastbound on Main Street. The Marshalltown teen wanted to get back to his home on Church Street where he believed his dogs were tied up outside, prey to injury from the storm.

Unconvinced at our offer, we ended up pulling Daniel through the front doors we feared might shatter just as destruction began.

Consumed with the overwhelming aftermath of the tornado this week — a mixed bag of sleeplessness, sadness, determination and responsibility — I kept thinking of Daniel.

Nobody died.

Daniel could have died and he didn’t.

When we finally connected over the phone midweek, I walked back through the experience with him.

Daniel admitted he had wandered up near the T-R building curious about the storm and hopeful to capture video of it on his phone.

I did my best to mute my mom voice, the one that sometimes jumps out of my mouth before I can stop it. Instead, I asked him about future endeavors as a thrill seeker.

Daniel said he has been persuaded by a lesson he believes he was meant to learn — stay inside once you hear the sirens.

He also seems to have been granted a good dose of gratitude for what he has. Daniel described the impact of the tornado on him and his family as “best case scenario.”

Upon his arrival home, where he lives with his mom and sister who were both OK, he found his dogs — a terrier and a pug — were safe inside. Over the course of the next few days, he took some time off from his job at Hy-Vee, where he bags groceries, and went to work boarding up windows and cleaning up a home ravaged by debris.

He’s followed the tornado recovery coverage in the T-R and remembers the strangers in the T-R basement as “really friendly,” despite the situation being “really awkward.”

In Daniel, I see the young version of me, incapable of fully absorbing the realities of life, unable to truly identify grace.

Daniel could have died and he didn’t.

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Contact Abigail Pelzer at apelzer@timesrepublican.com