Tag Archives: Alvaro Llanos

After the Fire: A True Story of Friendship and Survival by Robin Gaby Fisher

Sunday’s are my day to relax…I slept in, hung out with Kiddo and read. I am reading Lilac Girls and Midnight in Chernobyl and holy shit are they both good. They are both fairly long too, so it might be a few days to get through them. Not that I’m complaining though.

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After the Fire

On January 19, 2000, a fire raged through Seton Hall University's freshman dormitory, killing three students and injuring 58 others. Among the victims were Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos, roommates from poor neighborhoods who made their families proud by getting into college. They managed to escape, but both were burned terribly.

After the Fire is the story of these young men and their courageous fight to recover from the worst damage the burn unit at Saint Barnabas hospital had ever seen. It is the story of the extraordinary doctors and nurses who work with the burned. It is the story of mothers and fathers, of faith and family and the invisible ties that bind us to each other. It is the story of the search for the arsonists - and the elaborate cover-up that nearly obscured the truth. And it is the story of the women who came to love these men, who knew that real beauty is a thing not seen in mirrors.

I listened to the audiobook version of this, narrated by Richard Powers.

I hadn’t heard of this book before, but when I read the summary I knew that I had to listen to it. See, I was in high school when the Seton Hall fire happened and I found myself at the viewing of one of the victims who had graduated the year before and was a member of the marching band (I was in the color guard). It wasn’t the first time I had someone my age group die, but it was the first viewing I had gone to. I had barely known him, but it didn’t matter. Twenty years later, I still vividly remember that day.

Listening to this book was hard. It was graphic, Robin Gaby Fisher went into meticulous detail about the fire and the aftermath of the medical treatment that these two young men endured. I am already paranoid about fire and burns and it was just so difficult to listen to this. The second part was a little easier, and it was inspiring to see the young men overcome their catastropic injuries with their friendship intact.

I listened to this book in a single listening session. It was five or six hours long, and initially I started listening while working on putting laundry away but then I didn’t want to turn it off because I suspected that if I did, I wouldn’t want to return to it and I felt it was important to finish this. I’m glad I did listen to this, I just wish that this had never happened.

Rating: Five stars