I Met Survivors Of The Seton Hall Fire

I Met Survivors Of The Seton Hall Fire

Rowan University hosted a fire safety presentation given by two of the worst burn victims of the Seton Hall fire of 2000, and I couldn't be more inspired.


Last week, my news editor for Rowan's newspaper, The Whit, informed me of an event happening on campus that needed to be covered. She told me it was a fire safety presentation called, "After The Fire," and that it was some kind of short documentary. I was pretty much going into this blindly.

I got to the Student Center and took my seat in the ballroom, waiting for the presentation to start. The projectors were set up to display the documentary, and I noticed the title: "After The Fire, A True Story of Heroes and Cowards."

I looked around at all the students that were filing in, and the atmosphere started to become a little tense as the clock continued ticking away.

The Residence Hall Association (RHA) introduced the presentation, and I began to think that the documentary was just going to be a boring, typical, "stop, drop and roll," presentation that every school hosts. Then, the President of RHA introduced Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons as two of the worst burn victims from the Seton Hall fire of 2000, a fire which killed three and injured fifty-eight others.

Alvaro and Shawn stepped up on stage and I was instantly leaning forward in my chair. They introduced the documentary and gave the audience a forewarning of what was held in the film, including the points of view from their families, the nurses, and the investigation process of the arsonists responsible for the incident.

Then, the film began.

As someone who has never really seen the effects of a fire, sitting in that room watching the devastating results, I was in shock.

The fire was started by two students drunk after a sports win against a rival school. They tore down a bulletin board in the third-floor lounge and lit it on fire as a prank to set off the fire alarms. From there, the couches and furniture in the lounge caught fire and it spread quickly.

Students struggled to find exits in the thick smoke; one boy even jumped out the window of his third-floor dorm room.

I watched in horror at the effect it had on Shawn and Alvaro, as the burns to their bodies were quite extensive. For a while, the doctors and their families were afraid that they wouldn't make it.

But they did.

The documentary then showed their recovery process, and how they overcame the tragedy that had been forced upon them little by little.

But it wasn't just a physical obstacle that the two men had to now overcome; it was psychological as well. Having to now deal with the scars of the incident in a society full of judgment, I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like.

What makes me angry is the "justice" served to the criminals who caused this disaster. Only five years in prison, for the murder of three, and the injury to so many more because the court deemed the event to be circumstantial. Even then, one of the convicted was able to be let out early on parole.

I see no real justice.

Really, what justice can you give to the families who lost their children?

After the documentary, Alvaro and Shawn gave a short presentation showing a statistic of college dorm fires, and Shawn read a small snippet of a book dedicated to the trauma they endured. Then, they held a Q&A; open to the students.

When the event ended, students got to individually talk to both Shawn and Alvaro, buy their book, and take pictures. I got to interview them for my article, and even just by talking to them, I could easily understand how much they have been changed, not just physically but mentally as well, through the entire experience. They are so grateful for the opportunity to have a second chance at life and it really got me thinking.

How many times does my dorm building have fire drills that I complain about? How many times do I take my time to leave my building because I assume it's just another drill, and I don't want to be stuck standing outside in the cold? Too many times.

I really understand now why fire drills and housing regulations are put in place. They may be "annoying" or "inconvenient", but they are there for a reason that outweighs any complaint anyone may have: safety.

People tend to really take life for granted. I know I have at one point or another in my life, but I won't take my life for granted through fire drills any longer. It's meant to prepare you for a real-life situation.

Because one day, "just another fire drill" could be something real, and I'm not about to lose my life out of ignorance.

So to all those who look at fire drills like they're stupid: take it seriously.

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.

Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.

Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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7 Guidelines For Effective Reframing

There is a positive intention behind every thought.


Events or situations do not have inherent meaning; rather you assign them a meaning based on how you interpret the event. Every thought has a hidden "frame" behind it. The frame is your underlying beliefs and assumptions that are implied by your thoughts. Here are 7 main guidelines to effectively reframe your mindset:

1. Shift from passive to active.

Example: Someone says, "I really doubt that I can do anything about this." You may respond, "What is one small step you might take?"

2. Shift from negative feeling to positive feeling.

Example: Someone says, "I don't want to work on that now because it makes me angry." You may respond, "What small part of that might you work on for now that might leave you feeling a bit better about it?"

3. Shift from past to future.

Example: Someone says, "I've never been good at public speaking." You may respond, "If you imagined yourself successful at public speaking, how would it look?"

4. Shift from future to past.

Example: Someone says, "I can't seem to get started on achieving this goal." You may respond, "Has there been a time in the past when you achieved a goal and what did you do to achieve it?"

5. Shift from others to oneself.

Example: Someone says, "They don't seem to like me." You may respond, "What do you like about yourself?"

6. Shift from a liability to an asset.

Example: Someone says, "I'm such a perfectionist." You may respond, "How has being a perfectionist helped you in your job and life?"

7. Shift from victimization to empowerment.

Example: Someone says, "That always seems to happen to me. I'm an easy mark so they blame me." You may respond, "Sometimes we even do that to ourselves. Perhaps it would be useful to look at if you are doing that to yourself too?"

"If more students use self-compassion to reframe their failures, they may discover more nourishing sources of motivation and healthier strategies to pursue their goals." – Rachel Simmons

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