The most intriguing person of the year


Who was the most intriguing person you met this year?

For many of us, even though we didn’t meet him personally, Jeremy Hernandez is high on the list.

Even if he hadn’t helped rescue dozens of kids on a school bus when the I-35W bridge collapsed, he might’ve qualified just because he decided going fishing up north with his grandmother was more important than a photo op with President Bush. And in the aftermath of the collapse, there’ve been profiles after profiles of bridge victims. Jeremy Hernandez has never appeared in any of them.

He was not only the reluctant hero, his story of how he came to be on the bus from Waite House was unbeatable. He said he had dropped out of the automotive program at Dunwoody College of Technology because he couldn’t afford it. The kids at Waite House were the lucky beneficiaries.

President Bush surveyed the collapsed I-35W bridge with survivor Gary Babineau, who also helped rescue kids on the bus in the background.

His story led to an outpouring of contributions to get him back to school. The college established a fund “in honor of Jeremy’s heroic and selfless actions in response to the Aug. 1 collapse of the 35-W bridge. The fund has been established to help students like Jeremy who have gone beyond the call of duty to help others and who need financial assistance to complete their Dunwoody education.”

So far, however, Jeremy hasn’t been one of them.

“I don’t know much about what Jeremy’s been up to, but I can tell you that he is back at work (as a youth worker at Waite House) and he is not enrolled in school at this time,” said Molly Schwarz in an e-mail to me Tuesday night. She is the communications director of Pillsbury United Communities, which operates Waite House.

Messages are out to both Dunwoody and Mr. Hernandez to find out what his plans are. We might view his going back to school as what’s best for him. But he may well have viewed his staying with the kids as what’s best for them.

In either case, there’s been no more intriguing person in the news in a long time.

(Photo by Scott Schneider/Getty Images)

Update 10:51 a.m. 12/27 – Dave Jarzyna, a spokesman for Dunwoody College says that Jeremy is now enrolled in the winter semester there.