Category Archives: Stories

Fire Erupts at Swanson Theater

Nearly 30 fatalities have been confirmed after a fire broke out at the Swanson Center.

Shortly after 10 a.m., Wednesday, March 27, an explosive fire erupted in the theater, setting off fire alarms and throwing people inside the building into a panic. With blaring alarms ringing through the hallways and smoke filling the air, the atmosphere was in disarray.

“I need a Maui!” screamed one victim as the injuries from the explosion were too painful and in dire need of something to relieve the hurt.

Nurses and first responders carried victims out on stretchers and even lifting them up in their arms to secure them to safety.

“Have you seen my daughter?” asked one mother named Maggie in a frantic cry. “Her name is Calliope.”

The explosion left people missing and disoriented. The thick smoke caused people to be separated and lost. Not only were children missing, but also a dog.

“Have you seen my dog, Rover?” continually cried one owner.

At 11a.m. a news conference was held to address the public on any new information. Leading the conference was POI of Public Health for District 2 Gainesville Dave Palmer, along with Lynn Smith of Emergency Management and Chief Jim Andrews of Piedmont College Police Department.

As of now, 28 of the 108 fire victims are confirmed dead at the scene, 28 are in a very critical state and 29 suffered non critical injuries. Injuries range from dazed and minor burns to major burns and broken limbs. There were no further comments from the nurses and first responders at the scene.

“We’re here to assist in any way we possibly can,” said Lynn Smith.

A possible reason for the fire was assumed to be wood and cardboard used for the sets, but nothing has yet been confirmed as it is still early in the investigation. Although it is still unclear as to how the fire started, officials are working to make sure something like this never happens again.

“And I always think it’s wise to look around in neighborhoods and in communities to see what you have in your community that could be a threat,” said Jeffrey Adams. “To stop events like this from ever happening.”

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Disaster Drills Down at Piedmont College

An explosion at Piedmont’s Swanson center has resulted in 28 casualties and 100 injuries. “Someone lost their husband and their father,” Emily Bran said as barrels of smoke poured out of the building on Wednesday. so far there are 28 confirmed casualties and at least 100 people injured from a blast that quickly turned into a fully engulfed fire that began in the Theater Department of the building.

Multiple agencies were dispatched to the scene and a request put into Georgia Emergency Management. “We got called out here to an explosion and a fire to assist the local EMA in any way possible,” Dave Shanks, coordinator for Homeland Security said. “Our response time was about 20 minutes.”

AirLife helicopters were landing and taking off in 15 minute intervals transporting multiple critical patients from the scene. “There were a lot of burns and trampled people from other people running out,” nurse Natalie Winters said. “We have a lot of blood trauma and several casualties.”

Chief Jim Andrews of Piedmont College addressed reporters. “Shortly after the fire was reported, we had an explosion also.” he said. “Several agencies are on the scene to assist.”

The call came into the [911] center this morning around 10 o’clock. It was reported that there was a fire and multiple injuries. As things progressed, we were requesting additional units as well as the coroner, mobile morgue, AirLife and power companies,” Lynn Smith, 911 EMS Supervisor said.

Several people were screaming and unsure of what was happening. “He’s brown, his name’s Rover. If you call his name, he’lll come up and lick your leg and that’s when you’ll know it’s him,” Kra Hawke said about her missing service dog – frantically searching amongst the commotion.

Agencies responding included the – City of Demorest Fire, Habersham Medical Center, Habersham EMS, Habersham Fire, Habersham Sheriff Canine Units, EMA Center for Homeland Security, District 2 Public Health and Habersham County Search & Rescue.

“I believe it is way too early for anyone to have an origin or a cause on the fire.” Dale Palmer said.

Amin Abraham-Quiles: I grew, I learned, I got wiser

Amin Abraham-Quiles lost his grandfather his freshman year of high school. Before he died, he told Amin to “always keep a smile on your face,” a quote that would shape the way he lived. Amin Abraham-Quiles, or “AQ the Singer,” is known throughout the Piedmont College campus for his fresh rhymes, great attitude and infectious smile. “I just want to keep everyone around me in good moods. I love seeing people with a smile on their face and I want everyone to be positive,” says Abraham-Quiles.

“Being motivating– that’s kind of my core message that I like to portray with my peers.”After completing his bachelor’s degree in Arts Administration, Abraham-Quiles returned to Piedmont to attain his master’s degree in business. He’s taken a job as the graduate assistant in the Mass Communication department.

“Amin is a firm yet understanding and chill. He’s always willing to work with people’s schedules and help them out,” says Olivia Morley, a senior mass communication major and student worker. “I feel like he’s made the mcom department more relaxed, especially among the student workers.”

He records “Friday Motivation,” a series of short videos via The Roar Instagram each week to inspire those around him, specifically the Mass Communication majors he helps every day in his job.

But his talent and motivation aren’t limited to  Swanson Center office 109. For Abraham-Quiles’ capstone, he released the album “Life of the Afro Kid.” This album reflects on his life, his family, and the messages he wants to share. He began singing when he was just two years old, and his grandfather began to teach him musical skills at this young age.

“I grew up around a lot of Carribean island people, so family was very important there. Family is everywhere. You have to love family, respect family, and learn from them. They’re wise– they have wisdom they can share with you.”

He comes from a Puerto Rican-Haitian background, where the music and family have influenced his life and sound. “I was really inspired by my family and my family’s culture. I really wanted to demonstrate that culture in my album.”

The process of creating “Life of Afro Kid” was unlike any other album. The entire album was recorded in Abraham-Quiles’ Ipswitch dorm, where he’d send his creations to his uncle in New Jersey for mixing. He says that the album was essentially produced through the Internet. This isn’t the only thing that sets the album apart from the average.“Whenever I record something I do it through freestyling… I make it up from my brain, I don’t write it down.” he says. “I just re-record and re-record until I hear the core message that I want to bring to the song.”  

His album is full of different musical influences that make up who he is. “It was a very fusion-esque album that has all different things. It’s not just one genre.” He says. “You can listen to one song and think ‘oh, this is very pop-sounding,’ or another and think it’s very R&B sounding.” He says he wants his listeners to know his work is his when they hear it. “This is very Amin… You’re going to know. I’m introducing myself. It’s this journey that I’m putting you on.”

He decided to donate the album’s proceeds to the Alliance for African American Music in Northeast Georgia, the organization that funds the Lachicotte-Strickland Minority Scholarship. He calls the scholarship “a blessing,” it helped him pay for school in a way he didn’t see coming. “I decided that this album is going to give back to them.”

His charity doesn’t surprise Joe Dennis, chair of the mass communications department and Abraham-Quiles’ supervisor. “There’s a genuine good person behind that smile,” Dennis said. “I wish there were more Amins in the world.”

Spiegel by Day, John by Knight

Piedmont theater professor John Spiegel directs students by day and knights on the battle field by night.

John has always loved the renaissance era. He has studied many of the aspects of such a lifestyle and learned many of the skill people used then. “I’ve always been intrigued by the deep sense of becoming one with nature,” he said. “I know it sounds crazy but somehow it always comes back to living that simple life.”

Spiegel’s current life as a theater professor at Piedmont has kept him busy – not able to spend as much time as he would like in what he refers to as the “simple life.” His days are mixed with show preparation, class structuring and performance evaluations – hardly a free moment for simplicity.

Spiegel makes time for simple life through his annual trips around the country to Pennsic – an event based on the medieval era. Visitors show up with tents, weapons and enough food to get through a week.

“When I go to Pennsic, I get to be who I always dreamed I would be: the knight – in beat up armor,” he said.

Students recognize the knight-like qualities of their professor. “John is the real deal. He truly is royalty – and it shows in his fighting.” said Mike Adams – Junior.

“Yes it is true. My brother is an actual count,” Spiegel said. “Maybe that’s why I love to dress up in armor so much.”

John practices his fighting skills weekly with the Medieval and Renaissance Society club on campus. The group straps on real plate armor and trains as a unit with swords and shields. They participate in arts and science studies from the era as well as heraldry.

“At the end of the day, I am the knight.” he said. “It doesn’t get much simpler than that.”