2 victims of Seton Hall dorm fire return to campus on 20th anniversary

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Sunday, Jan. 19 will mark 20 years since a deadly dorm fire at Seton Hall University.

The fire caused injury to 58 students and left three other students dead. Since the fire dorms in New Jersey have become safer. But federal safety legislation has stalled.

Former students Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons were burned badly by the fire. They returned to the campus to mark the 20th anniversary.

"When I get an opportunity to come back on Seton Hall's campus, I always look at it as home,” says Shawn Simons.

Llanos and Simons say that their stories are about overcoming adversity.

"I was in a coma for three months. My first stay in the hospital was nine months and then I was in and out of the hospital for about five years and had over 30 surgeries during that process,” says Alvaro Llanos.

RELATED: Seton Hall dorm fire survivors return to NJ to tell their story 
RELATED: Congressman announces Fire Safety Education Act following deadly Seton Hall dorm fire 

Llanos says that the scars he had from the fire made him angry at first – but that the anger eventually faded.

Both men say that they eventually forgave their classmates for setting the fire. It was sparked as a prank after a night of drinking. They also say that they aren’t mad at Seton Hall, even though it took this tragedy to get fire sprinklers installed in the dorms.

"I was able to move on a lot sooner and I think a lot of that comes from the support I was able to get,” says Simons.

Llanos and Simons started to share their stories as teenagers so that others could learn that fire is no joke. They are also pushing a federal law that focuses on fire safety – one that has been in the works for 20 years. New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell re-introduced the bill in 2017, but it has not advanced.

The men say that they are afraid that something like the Seton Hall fire could happen again.

“Maybe not three people dying, maybe 30 people dying,” says Simons.

They say that they are happy to be alive and that they are grateful to have had each other.

"I don’t know if I would've been strong enough to get through this by myself,” Simons says.

"Going through this journey after so many years with him, it would've been tough to do it on my own,” says Llanos.

Seton Hall is holding a mass on campus Sunday to honor the victims.

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