PROVIDENCE — Bristol residents David Squillante and Doran Smith were a few days into their honeymoon in Barcelona in late September when, on their way to a guided tour at a park, they noticed some women screaming. Then they saw why: Flames were coming from an entryway of a building.
Squillante ran into a different entrance of the building and saw about 20 babies. The room wasn’t on fire, but it was getting smoky.
Squillante was going on instinct. He started putting kids into cribs and rolling those cribs to the entryway where Smith was. Smith pushed them across the street to get them out of the building that was on fire. Squillante speaks only kitchen Spanish, but he tried to calm down the nursery workers who were there: “Tranqiulo. Tranquilo.” By the end, as more bystanders intervened, they were passing children out like a baby bucket brigade.
“We couldn’t speak the language, but there was a universal language — we were all just trying to help,” Smith said.
It was all over in just a few minutes, from the time Squillante dropped his backpack and ran inside to when the fire department arrived to get things under control. Nobody was injured as far as they know. Squillante and Smith didn’t even stop to receive any thanks. They actually went on their park tour anyway, showing up about a half-hour late. And part of the way through it, it dawned on them.
“We looked at each other and said, remember that time we saved a bunch of babies?” Smith said.
“It felt like we watched it in a movie,” Squillante said. “It just didn’t feel real.”
Squillante and Smith, both 38, got home to Bristol in early October with the unique distinction of having travel photographs and videos that people actually will want to see (Smith, who was instinctively in tourist mode, had taken out her phone to take photos and videos before jumping in when she realized it was a nursery). Smith’s father told them when they got back that they needed to share this feel-good story, which they did recently with WJAR.
“It’ll help people think about other people,” Squillante said.
For Squillante, it’s sort of a family tradition: His father and his grandfather, George Seyez III. and Jr., were Bristol firefighters.
But there’s also surely some other force involved besides a willingness to intervene. There’s also coming across situations that require intervention. Squillante has a habit of that.
Like the time he was driving his motorcycle on some random road for no particular reason and saw a man climb up a fence on an overpass. He and a paramedic grabbed the man off the fence and stopped him from killing himself.
Or the time he happened to log into Facebook, which he basically never does, and saw a buddy post about his lost dog. He felt bad, so he went out in a thunderstorm to look for the dog. On the way to look for the dog, he saw a bicycle, stopped, and noticed a man passed out by the bike. He called 911 to help the man.
And then he also found the dog. In, like, 25 minutes.
“Dave is always in the right place at the right time,” Smith said.
Indeed, if it wasn’t for their COVID wedding, they may not have been in Barcelona on Sept. 28 to help rescue all those babies. They had a very small ceremony on Oct. 10, 2020 — happy anniversary to them, by the way — and then a big celebration a year later. Then they went on a delayed honeymoon in late September 2022 to Barcelona. Squillante, who works in food sales, and Smith, a software engineer, went to Spain to enjoy the architecture and the food and, on the island of Menorca, the beach.
And also to help save some babies from a fire, as it turns out. Squillante said it wasn’t all that dramatic. The room itself wasn’t actively on fire. But at one point one of the children had gotten scared and was in a playhouse. Squillante grabbed him and pulled him out of the window of the playhouse. He handed a different child off to Smith. The child wasn’t wailing, as other children were, but instead squeezed her finger.
It’s a story they’ll be telling for a while. Might not be the last: Squillante is now looking into following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and becoming a volunteer firefighter in Bristol.