Today is the fifth anniversary of the Station Nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., that killed 100 people, severely injured 200 more, left 65 children without a parent (or both), and saw 23 people lose a husband or wife.
It was the fourth-largest nightclub fire in US history, and of all the surviving victims, only 15 have become eligible for social security. A largely forgotten tragedy due to the nature of the event (Great White concert, blue-collar clientele, location within a small city in the Ocean State), few of the survivors have resumed a normal life 60 months after the event.
Burn injuries are unlike many others because they do not heal. You can’t heal the sweat glands that are damaged by severe burns, and visible markings become permanent reminders. I’ve spent the past three days speaking with survivors, and their tales are harrowing. The Station Family Fund is one of the main volunteer groups that oversee most of these medical, housing and other bills, and amazingly, 85 percent of the donations they receive come between Valentine’s Day and the Feb. 20 anniversary. 85 percent within seven days of the year. Check out stationfamilyfund.org for ways to donate.
By some strange coincidence, I was in Providence the night of Feb. 20, 2003, at the Green Room DJing with Terence. I remember watching it unfold on the local news, and even then, no one had any idea what the outcome would be. Amid the random jokes about it being a Great White concert, I think the prevailing thought was "Imagine dying at a fucking Great White concert?!?!"
My friends and I go to shows every week, and as Dee Snider told me the other day, this could have happened anywhere. Significant public safety measures have since been enforced nationwide, but a quick perusal of the exits of the Middle Easts, Great Scotts and TT the Bears’ of the city, as well as pretty much every other venue in the world, tell us this can easily happen anywhere.