Sep 24, 2019
Being a burn survivor has many challenges: many people see the physical scars, however, there are also mental and emotional scars, which can be even more difficult to accept. Shawn Simmons was an inner-city youth from Newark, New Jersey who, despite violence, drugs and bad influences in his neighborhood, used education as a tool to get out of those conditions.
As a first-generation college student, Shawn attended Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ in the fall of 1999 on a full-ride scholarship.
It would be the morning of January 19, 2000 whilst Shawn and roommate Alvaro Llanos slept, that a drunken fraternity prank gone wrong would change their lives and futures forever.
When two fraternity college students
set fire to a banner on a bulletin board and slipped away without pulling any alarms or alerting
residents, no one could have foreseen the devastation this one act
would result in. Three students perished and 58 others were injured
due to their actions; Shawn and Alvaro were amongst the most
severely burned and injured,
almost losing their lives.
Today, Shawn and Alvaro travel the country speaking to college and high school students about the most difficult time of their lives and the importance of fire safety and prevention, both, on and off campus. Their story is one of overcoming adversity — becoming comfortable in their burned skin — and how their bond with each other helped them get their lives back. It's also a journey of forgiveness towards the individuals convicted of starting the fire.
“I always tell people that...a burn survivor or any survivor of any type of accident or any type of illness is still a human being.” — Shawn Simmons
“I always tell people, if you see a burn survivor — if you're curious to know what happened to that person — ask them their story, they’ll most likely open up.” - Shawn Simmons
“Our scars are our story, so if you want to know my story and you see my scars, just ask me.” - Shawn Simmons
“... the question comes — if you could have changed the direction in which you went to avoid the fire would you have done it and I always answer...absolutely not. I always feel if we didn’t go that way, if we would have made the left instead of made the right, I wouldn’t be here to share this journey right now and I survived for a reason.” - Shawn Simmons
“You can never know what your adversity is going to be, but it's how you persevere through your adversity.” - Shawn Simmons
“I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me.” - Shawn Simmons
Today on The Adverse Effect:
The Homework: Take less than 30 minutes today to change your perspective:
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