Two of the survivors of the Seton Hall University arson of Jan. 19, 2000, Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos, will share their experiences at Keuka College Friday, Sept. 5.
Free and open to the public, the program begins at 7 p.m. in Norton Chapel. Simons and Llanos, who were freshman roommates, were severely burned during the fire. They will speak as part of the Office of Campus Safety’s fire safety training for the fall semester.
What started as a prank in the early morning hours in Seton Hall University’s freshman residence hall, Boland Hall, ended with three freshmen losing their lives and nearly 60 injured. Of the 58 student injuries, five were critical, including Simons and Llanos, and required extensive hospitalization.
“Shawn and Alvaro suffered extensive, disfiguring burns, and I am certain that seeing and listening to them will be an experience those in attendance will not soon forget,” said Pat Kasnick, director of campus safety.
At approximately 4:30 a.m. that morning, a fire alarm was received for the six-story Boland Hall in the security office at Seton Hall. The fire on the third floor quickly involved the furniture in the elevator lobby and adjoining area.
Students would later recount that false fire alarms were almost considered a way of life on the college campus, with the result that they tended to be largely ignored. Within minutes, however, students—including Simons and Llanos—became aware that there indeed was a fire. This time, it wasn’t a false alarm.
Scared, the roommates crawled in the direction that they were accustomed to going, not knowing that they were crawling right into the fire. If they had headed to the nearest exit, a stairwell they rarely used, there was the possibility they could have escaped the building without injury.
Losing each other in the blackened hallway, Simons crawled right through and past the fire, but not without his hands taking on third degree burns as his palms stuck to the sweltering floor tiles as he pushed for safety. He also suffered first and second degree burns to his head and face, bringing his percentage of body burned to 16 percent and an insurmountable amount of smoke inhalation. His face was so badly burned that doctors predicted he would be frighteningly disfigured. They feared his fingers, seared almost to the bone, would have to be amputated.
Llanos was hurt even more gravely. As he approached the burning lounge, Llanos saw a glimmer of light from the stairwell adjacent to the lounge. As he stood up to push the door open, a fireball erupted from the burning ceiling tiles, igniting his coat and causing third degree burns from his head to his torso. As he tumbled out into the hallway still ablaze, two resident assistants were able to put the fire out on Llanos, but not before he experienced burns on 56 percent of his body. Chunks of his once athletic frame were gone. From his waist up, nothing was spared
Simons endured months of physical and occupational therapy, while Llanos’ recovery process took years. Not only was it a physical toll on Llanos and Simons, but it was a mental and emotional roller coaster as well. Learning to deal with being comfortable in their new “burned” skin was a mission all in itself.
Two students who started the fire as a prank were indicted in mid-2003, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in late 2006, and were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in early 2007.
A film documenting the tragedy, After the Fire, was made in 2012. To view the trailer of the movie click here.
Keuka College’s Director of Counseling Services Mary Martini-Hauser is among the five nominees for this year’s Geneva ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award.
Established in 2007, the award is for an emerging woman leader, 40 years of age or younger, who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in her business or profession; provides valuable service to improve the quality of life for others in her community; and clearly serves as a role model for young women, both professionally and personally.
“I am honored to be among this incredible group of women,” said Martini-Hauser, who was nominated by her husband, Justin Hauser. “Hearing what they have done for our community is inspiring, and it makes me want to do even more.”
Martini-Hauser’s husband works with the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Seneca County Chamber of Commerce, and “knows some past recipients,” she said. “He thought about what I do for the community and decided to nominate me. He believed my hard work needed to be highlighted, and his nomination of me was a complete surprise.”
In her role at Keuka College, the Geneva resident provides Keuka College students with professional counseling services and works alongside the College to enrich student lives, both physically and mentally.
“My office offers confidential individual counseling, couples and roommate counseling, and group counseling,” said Martini-Hauser. “We offer stress relief tips, provide alcohol screening, and participate in One Walk, which raises awareness to help prevent suicide.”
She also is involved in resident assistant (RA) training, and speaks with all new students in their wellness classes.
“I hope after I talk with them, they see me as a trusted person they can talk with,” said Martini-Hauser, who strives to be a positive role model to the students.
Martini-Hauser serves as an ambassador for the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce, where she volunteers at such events as the annual golf tournament, membership barbeques, and Cork & Fork, a popular two-day event that offers participants an opportunity to sample and buy locally-made products from area farms, wineries, chefs, restaurants and other food producers.
In addition, she is a founding member of Finger Lakes Young Professionals, a group that offers networking forums, professional development, and volunteer opportunities to young professionals of the Greater Finger Lakes Region. She also is an active volunteer at St. Mary’s Church in Waterloo.
Added Martini-Hauser: “If I receive the award, it will push me to be sure I am doing the best I can.”
The winner will be announced Sept. 18 at the 10th annual ATHENA Awards dinner at Ventosa Vineyards in Fayette.
Twenty-two faculty and staff members were recognized for their service and dedication to Keuka College at Community Day Aug. 19.
Five-year service awards were presented to: Dianne Trickey-Rokenbrod, assistant professor of occupational therapy; Lynne Heath, academic records specialist; Troy Cusson, instructional design manager, Wertman Office of Distance Education; Michele “Mikki” Sheldon, administrative assistant for the Office of Academic Affairs; Jessica Dunkelberger, director of program administration and student services; Christen Accardi, assistant director of marketing; Teresa Ripley, administrative assistant for the Division of Humanities and Fine Art; Eric Detar, College chaplain; Timothy White; resident director and assistant director of housing and residence life; Alex Perryman, assistant professor of finance; Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art; and Jennie Joiner, chair, Division of Humanities and Fine Art and assistant professor of English.
Ten-year service awards were presented to: Kristen Harter, assistant director of admissions, traditional; Janet Lanphear, data entry coordinator; and Carmela Battaglia, professor of occupational therapy.
Fifteen-year service awards were presented to: Mike McKenzie, assistant professor of philosophy and religion; Jason Paige, head men’s lacrosse coach; and Deb Jensen, accounting assistant, payroll.
A 20-year service award was presented to Gary Smith, professor of management.
Merit awards were presented to Rebecca Capek, resident director and success advocate; and Dunkelberger.
Presidential Awards for Sustained Outstanding Achievement were presented to: Ann Tuttle, professor of management; Detar; and Sandra Devaux, graphic designer.
Keuka College welcomes its new students to campus Wednesday, Aug. 20.
Returning students, faculty, and staff were on hand to welcome the newest members of the Keuka College family, answer questions, and assist moving the students into their rooms.
All new students will participate in the Transition Week program, which includes sessions addressing new student issues, academics, team-building, social activities, and preparation for the first day of classes. The week’s activities mark the transition to college life and give newcomers the opportunity to prepare for their new role as Keuka College students.
Classes begin Monday, Aug. 25.
Tom Reed (R-NY), the 23rd Congressional District representative, will be at Keuka College Thursday, Aug. 21 at 3:30 p.m. at the Jephson Athletic Fields.
Congressman Reed will be on campus to deliver some brief remarks and meet members of the College and local communities.
The former mayor of his hometown of Corning, Congressman Reed, whose district includes Yates County, serves on the Committee on Ways and Means. The committee has broad jurisdiction over issues including tax policy, trade, health care, and Social Security. He serves on the Human Resources, Oversight, and Select Revenue Measures subcommittees of Ways and Means.
Reed is part a 10-member bipartisan coalition that is championing the Campus Accountability and Safety Act in the House of Representatives. U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and a bi-partisan group of her colleagues recently introduced the legislature in the Senate.
Currently, Reed co-chairs the House Manufacturing Caucus and Congressional Natural Gas Caucus, and is vice chair of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus. He has also served on the Rules, Judiciary, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.
In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held in Hegeman Hall 109.