Beyond the Ashes – Students displaced by the Scott fire share their stories



The resident’s assistant of Building G, David Lang, has spent the last two weeks helping friends and residents accommodate to the lifestyle changes that occurred in the wake of the fire, offering a shoulder to lean on and rides those in need.
The fire specifically has impacted Lang, moving to another residence hall and having many of his belongings covered in ashy and soot-filled water.
“By an act of God, the three things that are irreplaceable didn’t get touched,” Lang said. “My Marshall amp, Taylor acoustic guitar and mini-fridge weren’t damaged at all, thankfully.”
His most meaningful possession, a wooden box filled with notes addressed to his late dad, was also untouched. Lang is currently working with his insurance company to replace his other items and is in talks with Scott Housing to see how his responsibilities as an RA will change.
“The university has done a spectacular job responding to this and has left no stone unturned,” Lang said. “Everytime I see my residents, I just make sure that they have everything they need.”
Lang’s father passed just over two months before the fire.
“It’s been a tough year, but I’m making it through,” Land said.


A roommate of Lang’s, James Reitmeier was one of the few students in the building at the time of the fire. Dozing off after talking to his father on the phone, a neighbor knocked on his door with the alert that “shit’s going down.”
“I looked out the back to see shingles and tile were just falling down,” said Reitmeier. “It just looked like it was raining fire. Everything changed from that point forward.”
With the other residents, Reitmeier moved to the safety of the Scott Village Clubhouse.
“When a new person from Building G would walk into the clubhouse, we would all just shout and hug them,” Reitmeier said. “It’s hard to believe the loss, but we are all just happy everyone is alive.”
Moving forward, Reitmeier said he is trying to stay on top of everything financially. He has an engineer job lined up in Kansas City and is preparing as best he can following the fire.
“I’m just counting my pennies now,” Reitmeier said.


Broadcasting major, Eric Anderson was working at Omaha News when the fire began.
Anderson has worked on covering the fire for UNO Television since last Wednesday, which predominately covers local news.
“I know it’s an accident with the cigarette, but it still just kind of ticks you off,” Andersons said. “Just thinking of all the lost possessions because of this, it’s crazy.”
The senior has been working with his insurance company to replace his lost belongings and been taking advantage of the different companies that have reached out to help the victims, such as using the offered free dry cleaning on the HyVee on Center street.
“If something like this is going to happen, I’m glad it happened in Omaha,” Anderson said. “Omaha and the university is doing everything they can, and it’s been great.”


Peering out the window from her work, Angela Gillespie saw smoke billowing into the blue sky and knew something was wrong. Working just down the street during the fire, Gillespie’s phone began to blow up with text messages and phone calls from neighbors to alert her of the tragedy.
“I went over as soon as I could from work,” Gillespie said. “As the building emerged, I saw all the flames and thought everything is gone for sure. I knew it was going to be bad.”
Many of Gillespie’s belongings have been recovered by maintenance and residence managers, including pairs of jeans that had to be sawed out of a dresser and were frozen in a block of ice from the firefighter’s water.
The senior said she is particularly happy that a wooden cruccifix of hers survived the flames.
“If you look up into my room, you can see that the wall my crucifix was on is completely blackened and burnt,” Gillespie said. “I don’t know how something wooden made it through that.”
Like the rest of Building G, Gillespie is working with her insurance to replace her damaged items and trying to piece her life together day-by-day.
“It’s now just a matter of taking steps to replace the old,” Gillespie said.


Originally from India, Ajay Medury is one of the several international students who lived in Building G. The senior computer science major was meeting with a professor when he heard the news about the fire.
“The worst part of this whole experience has been dealing with insurance,” Medury said. “It’s been a process of talking with agents and filling out forms.”
While Medury’s passport and documentation wasn’t lost from the fire, many international students’ important information was damaged or completely burned.  Medury said the International Program has been very supportive and has reached out to many of the students suffering.
“I’ve told my parents, and yes they are shocked,” Medury said. “Although, they did say it will be easier for me to move now without all my stuff.”


Shannon Barber has emerged from the ashes of the fire with the help of her sorority Alpha Xi Delta.
“Nicole Partusch, one of my sorority sisters, actually was the one who gave me a clear story of what had happened,” Barber said. “I needed the clarification because when I pulled up at 5:30, there was just water falling from the second floor balcony like a waterfall.  There was nothing I could do.”
Barber didn’t show up to the scene until two hours after the fire because she was at work. For the next 24 hours, she waited with the rest of the residents to see what had survived the fire.
“AXiD has been great,” Barber said. “I’ve had so many girls reach out and offer me help, even asking if I needed a place to stay and offering their homes.”
In the wake of the fire, Barber has moved home in Bellevue to live with her parents.
“It’s not been an easy transition to say the least,” Barber said. “It’s been the little things like paying for more gas and dealing with the commute that I’ve needed to adjust to.”