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Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons

“We survived a terrible ordeal together, and even though we still talk to each other the way we did before — you know, we still joke and make fun of each other — there’s something more.”              -Shawn Simons

(pictured with Robin Gaby Fisher, author of After the Fire)

Old roommates Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos are more than your ordinary pair of best friends. On January 19th 2000, their lives changed forever when arsonists set fire to their dorm at Seton Hall University. The disaster ended with three tragic deaths and 56 injured students; amongst these, Shawn and Alvaro were the two most critically burned, and both ended up in comas. As they woke up and began to recover, Shawn and Alvaro made a pact to not only help each other live the best lives they could, but also forgive their wrongdoers and help each other to recovery. Their amazing story of healing and growth was documented by photographer Matt Rainey and journalist Robin Gaby Fisher, and has recently been made into a movie, “After the Fire” by director Guido Verweyen. Both ended up finishing their degrees at Seton Hall University and now help other burn survivors overcome their injuries at Saint Barnabas’s support group.

To learn more about Alvaro and Shawn’s story, visit the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma website and the read the 7 part article “After the Fire,” written by Robin Gaby Fisher and Matt Rainey/

For more information on the movie “After the Fire” visit


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