SAN MARCOS, Texas -- Two survivors of a residence hall fire nearly 19 years ago visited with San Marcos residents to share their message of survival.
• The two survived a fire that left three students dead and injured 58 others
• The pair travels the country doing hundreds of presentations a year
Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos were freshman roommates at Seton Hall University when two students started a fire as a prank at their dorm.
The blaze left three students dead and injured 58 others. The pair were two of the most severely burned students.
"For me, the mental aspect was the toughest part of the recovery. You're always worried about how people are going to accept you and that was the toughest part, learning to accept myself and learning to love myself," Llanos said.
"If anything we're stronger because of what we've gone through despite what our physical appearance shows," Simons said.
Now they travel the country doing hundreds of presentations a year, speaking to college and high school campuses about their experience and fire prevention.
"We do about 200 presentations a year. We're on the road about five days out of the week. We're able to get back home on the weekends and then we're doing it all over again on a Monday," Llanos said.
The pair had each other to lean on during the recovery process, which Llanos said made their bond stronger.
"Being able to speak about it early on definitely helped the healing process and we were fortunate enough that we didn't have to deal with PTSD because we were able to share our feelings," Llanos said.
Simons said San Marcos Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner asked the pair to come share their message following the deadly Iconic Village and Vintage Pads apartment fire that killed five and injured seven others in the early morning hours on July 20.
"Our message to the students who have to go through this is better days lie ahead. When you're going through a tragedy, it's unfortunate. It's going to leave a lasting memory on you but you have to realize that things will get better as time goes on. You never forget but you have to figure out how to move on and how to live your life to the fullest extent," Simons said.
They hope those who survived the fire continue to stay strong and support each other.
"When you're that close to possibly dying, you have a different perspective on life and you value life everyday differently. Each day is a blessing, each day that you're alive and you're able to move forward is a great day," Simons said.