20 Years Ago, The Station Nightclub Fire Claimed 100 Lives and Left Hundreds More Injured
Dozonlife is a publication that tackles everything that life throws at you, and 20 years ago today, one of the greatest tragedies in Rhode Island history took place. The Station Nightclub fire in West Warwick claimed 100 lives and injured hundreds of others. The direct ripples were felt statewide and throughout New England. It's the 4th-deadliest nightclub fire in American history. Events like this are why I wrote the "we need a term for negative anniversaries" blog because it does not feel right to use a term like that to describe the amount of time that's passed since February 20th, 2003. May all 100 victims rest in peace.
The fire must've happened during February break because I was in 5th grade then, but I remember seeing coverage on the news that night. I was at my dad's old house in the backroom, watching tv on a luxurious 32-inch picture-in-picture set. The images and videos were horrifying. I've seen them too many times over the last 20 years. Even though this tragedy predates "camera phones" being the norm, in a sick twist of fate, a WPRI cameraman filmed the fire from the beginning for a piece on nightclub safety. Only three days earlier, 21 people lost their lives in a crush at a Chicago nightclub. Unfortunately, it was a combination of the fire and ensuing crush due to many heading for the same exit that padded the Station's death toll.
I can't even begin to imagine the fear the victims felt in their final moments. Being in a fire is easily one of my greatest fears, and this tragedy played a significant role in my going-out strategies for the rest of my life. These people were just tryna see a show and have a good time but never made it home. I've spent more nights than I'd care to remember in crowded bars and going to live shows trying to do the same thing. You probably have too. I always try to be close to an exit if God-forbid something were to happen.
Unfortunately, for the victims of this senseless tragedy, negligence by the owners of The Station undoubtedly multiplied the victim count. The club was overpacked with a lack of sprinklers. The soundproofing was highly flammable and combined with shitty pyrotechnics. Still, the most egregious problem, IMO, was blocked/poorly marked exits (highlighted by a scumbag bouncer that stopped people from leaving out of "the band's exit").
After this senseless tragedy, some positive changes were made, but not enough. The Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act has been sitting in Congress since 2003. It blows my mind that people can't agree that the costs and added safety are worth it, but hopefully, someday, that changes before another tragedy takes place.
I just had to pay my respects to the victims today and didn't want to wait until after I talked about Jayson and Jaylen's excellent performances in the All-Star Game. I was only 11 then, but I remember that night and what happened in West Warwick all too well. It was jarring. We should never forget the tragedy that took place 20 years ago today in West Warwick, RI and learn from the mistakes that lead to this senseless loss of life. May all the victims rest in peace, and those still living with the physical and mention scars from that night find peace.
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