In trial by FIRE


by Aaron Young

An unexpected turn for the worse always comes with negatives. Many negatives indeed. However, it just takes a few positive reinforcements to make those rough and tough times a little bit easier.

In the words learned by sophomore Simpson College men’s basketball player Charles Swain from his family: God has a plan for everyone.

Over the holiday break, Swain and the Storm were playing in Washington for its Christmas break trip. That morning of the team’s match-up against Whitman College, Swain received a frantic phone-call from his mother, Filishia, with unexpected news.

“My mom was informing me that there was a fire and that we had lost everything inside,” Swain said.

When he first learned of the news, Charles paused.

“I thought it was a joke or a dream since the call interrupted my sleep and it was very confusing to hear,” he said. “It was hard to fathom. The news didn’t hit me until I saw some pictures and went down there myself a few days after hearing about it since it was over break.”

Most of the possessions that were lost in the fire were material goods that could be replaced, but Swain says that his mother was the most upset.

“She lost a countless number of pictures of her children as well as her parents, grandparents and so on,” Swain said.

The Swains were forced to take up residency at a nearby motel after watching their Austin, Texas home burn to the ground.

Despite having saved very little to any possessions, Swain says that his family had received a tremendous amount of support from friends and other family members by contributing, providing and donating whatever they could during their time of need.

Filishia considers her family to be blessed for the constant outpour of help.

“The Swains are very strong,” she said. “Always had to be, and although this experience has been quite challenging overall, we’ve been blessed by many who have reached out to us in support.”

Charles says that his family is still currently living in the motel, at least for the time being.

“We are looking for other places to move,” Charles said. “We have received several offers of temporary residency from family members and friends.”

People were also kind enough to lend sweaters and socks as the dreary, winter weather was fast approaching.

Fortunately for Charles, many of his possessions were with him in his dorm room, but even with the things he did lose, none of it mattered.

“The most important thing was that my family was safe and without any physical harm,” Charles said.

On the contrary, however, how does one get himself mentally prepared for a game after being informed of such a tragedy?

There was only one thing Charles thought he could do, and that was to joke around.

“Life goes on and nothing could be done to bring our home and all of our belongings back,” he said. “Before the game started, I joked with a teammate that I would be ‘on fire’ tonight.”

With that mentality, the sparks triggered, and Charles’ own flames began to ignite on the hardwood floor in Walla Walla, Wash.

Even though the Storm lost the contest 91-86 to then-ranked No. 11 Whitman College, The 6’2” guard dropped a career-high 31 points against the Missionaries. His 31 points scored were the most by a Simpson player since Tim Dunlavy scored 37 against Buena Vista during the 2009-10 season.

His efforts on the court led him in garnering Iowa Conference Athlete of the Week honors. Once he knew about receiving the honor, Charles called the people who needed good news the most: his family.

“It felt great telling my parents that I performed well on the court, especially after what happened” Swain said. “They have always been proud and supportive. My mom reassured me that God has a plan for everyone, and saw this fire as an opportunity to move on to a bigger and better place for us to live.”

Filishia was simply filled with an overloading amount of pride for her son’s accomplishments.

“My first and only thought was how blessed I am to be his mom,” Filishia said. “It confirms what I tell Charles and his siblings that no one or no thing, not even a fire, is bigger than God. What’s meant for Charles is what he receives, and fortunately it was Conference Player of the Week.”

Taking his mother’s words to the floor, Charles strongly believes the team is the most talented team in the conference, even if their record does not show it.

“If we continue to stick together and refuse to give up even if we are down as much as 20, then I think we will surprise a lot of teams in our conference and steal some wins,” Charles said.

Filishia sticks to her strong words despite facing feelings of losing her whole life.

“It’s difficult when you lose everything,” she said. “But when I think about I was able to get my children [Everett and Troi] and pets [Sissy and Kobe] out of our burning home safely, and hearing about how well my Charles played during that time, my plan is to trust God’s plan for my family and take rebuilding our lives one step at a time.”

Simpson College (5-11, 1-4 IIAC) welcomes Coe College (2-3, 9-7 IIAC) into town for conference play. Tip-off is set to start at 8 p.m.