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After the Fire:   Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons

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Alvaro's Story


 From the time I was a little kid I knew what I wanted to do with my life: Get out of the inner city, go off to college, and eventually make a better life for my family and myself. I grew up in the tough city of Paterson, New Jersey. It’s easy for a kid to be led down the wrong path in a place like that, where gangs run rampant, crime is a way of life, and illegal activity, like selling drugs, is so tempting because it’s more lucrative than the menial jobs there. I played sports to stay out of trouble. Baseball was my favorite sport and I was really good at it. I was also blessed with a supportive family that told me I could do anything and be anyone I sought to be.

Seton Hall University was a giant step toward achieving my goals. I remember walking on the leafy campus and thinking how lucky I was to be the first person in my family to be able to go to college. In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined how college would change my life.

I was just beginning the second semester of my freshman year at Seton Hall when on January 19, 200, at around four in the morning, I woke up to a fire alarm blaring in my dorm. I had experienced so many false alarms that I almost slept through it, but I got up and headed for the door. It didn’t take long to realize this was a real fire. I crawled through blinding smoke and intense heat, trying to find my way out of the building, when my jackt caught on fire. I was critically burned and in a coma for three months. The journey back from my injuries was long and hard, but I came through it better and stronger.

What I realized is that sometimes we take life for granted until something tragic happens. I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I have so much to be thankful for, and I want to share my good fortune with others. I have a story to tell, one that I believe will help people who are suffering through their own trials and tragedies. Thank God I’m alive to share it. If I can help just one person along the way then my own long journey after the fire will have been worth every step.

That is my mission today.