Alumni recall life “After the Fire”
“After the Fire” brought two survivors of the Boland Hall fire back to Seton Hall to share their experience and talk about fire safety. The Black Student Union and Housing and Residence Life combined efforts to hold the event. The main theme was “turning tragedy into triumph” as the audience gathered to listen to the speakers in the McNulty Amphitheatre on Oct. 1.
January 2015 marks the 15th anniversary of the Boland Hall fire, which occurred on Jan. 19, 2000 at 4:30 a.m., killing three students and injuring 58. Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos were freshman roommates living on the third floor of Boland North, where the fire was started as a prank. Shawn suffered from third-degree burns on his hands and second-degree burns on 16 percent of his body. Alvaro had a more severe case suffering from third-degree burns that covered 56 percent of his body.
At the event, Simons and Llanos showed the documentary “After the Fire.” The documentary focused on Simons and Llanos’ recovery process, the emotional stress that their families endured and the criminal investigation on who ignited the fire. When the documentary finished, the two survivors then began to tell their own personal stories of the fire and the process of starting their lives over after it.
“Part of our mission is to share our story and put into your minds that this can happen to you,” Simons said. “We don’t want anyone else at Seton Hall or any other school around the country to have to go through what we went through.”
Shawn and Alvaro focused on the theme of overcoming adversity; they wanted to be an example that anyone can get past certain obstacles. The two men travel the country speaking to students in various schools about their experiences.
“If we could make an impact on only even one student, it would mean the world to us,” Alvaro said.
“This program is about the theme of what Alvaro and Shawn have done with their lives,” said Kirsten Simmons, president of the Black Student Union. “They’ve dedicated their lives to spreading a positive message. They’ve seen hundreds of thousands of students to talk about fire safety and remaining optimistic in their lives.”
The theme of facing adversity fit into the mission of the Black Student Union. Simmons said, “Being minorities on campus, we may face obstacles, but we need to remember to push through.”
Ashley Turner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.