CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- UNC Burn Center survivors came together for their annual reunion on Saturday.

  • The fatal fire happened in 1996
  • Five people died on graduation day
  • The fire chief at the time also spoke to the survivors

The event at the Friday Center featured Bonnie Woodruff, the mother of 1996 UNC fraternity fire victim Ben Woodruff.

"I don't have visible scars, but I have a scarred heart," said Woodruff. "Every time I've told my story--and I've told it a lot of times--that grief and that pain softens."

Five people died in the Phi Gamma Delta house fire on Graduation Day 1996.

Woodruff was not physically injured by the fire, but she talked to the burn survivors about the mental toll of recovering from emotional trauma.

"The fire had a profound effect on my family," said Woodruff. "Literally, our dreams for Ben went up in smoke."

Her message resonated with some of the burn survivors at the reunion.

"There are so many people that have these hidden scars, that are carrying this major pain and suffering that none of us see," said burn survivor Charlene Pell.

Former Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones, who was fire chief during the 1996 fire, also addressed burn survivors.




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