Local News

Survivors Unite In Triangle For World Burn Congress

Posted October 15, 2004

— The 16th annual World Burn Congress, hosted by the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, is under way in the Triangle. Burn survivors see the event as an important part of their recovery.

"You know, you always hear this thing that you can always find someone worse off than you. Well, here's a place where that really happens," burn survivor Frank Hensley said.

Hensley has carried his burn scars for 47 years. In 1957, his school in Mount Airy burned to the ground. Two people died and six people escaped with severe burns.

"We had no fire escapes, we had no fire alarm system and I do not remember ever having a fire drill at that particular time," Hensley said.

Hensley is a minister, married with four children. He helped bring the World Burn Congress to the Triangle. He said the event is his chance to reach out to others who have shared similar experiences.

Skip Servis went to see the band Great White in Rhode Island last year when firey effects on stage turned to horror.

"This happened in seconds," Servis said. "Within a minute -- no lie -- within a minute, I heard someone say, the fire, it's real," he said.

Panicked crowds blocked the nightclub's exits. Servis managed to punch through an exterior wall with burned hands.

"I got through and I heard one of the firemen yell, 'Get the stretcher! We got one over here,'" he said.

One hundred people died, hundreds were hurt and many were burned.

Everyone attending the Burn Congress has an amazing story to tell. The sharing of those stories helps them to move beyond just being a burn victim to becoming a burn survivor.

"Now, a survivor is someone who is able to take those injuries and go and move on," Hensley said.

Participants say this annual gathering is an important part of moving on.

"It's a feeling of sorrow in a way, but you know, it's togetherness is what it is. It's a feeling of togetherness," Servis said.

The World Burn Congress continues at the Sheraton Imperial in Research Triangle Park through Saturday.

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