This Way Out
Rhode Island's claim to fame is vast. The good: Coffee syrup, Del's lemonade, miles of coastline, Miss Universe. And the really, really bad: The Station nightclub fire. February 20, 2003. One hundred lives lost.
While most of the world plays the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, in the smallest state, we could probably do it in two. In other words, it's odd to meet someone whom you don't share any common relationships. Consequently, in times of tragedy, we all hurt.
Last weekend, when the news came about the Brazil blaze, it really hit home, maybe even harder than a tragedy over five thousand miless away from our shores, typically would. That's because the similarities between Saturday's Brazil tragedy and the one in my home state were sickeningly similar.
John P. Barylick, a trial lawyer at Wistow, Barylick, Sheehan & Loveley PC and author of Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert, lays it all out in an outstanding essay for USA Today.
If you're pressed for time, the most important take-away, to me anyway, is this:
"One of the most important lessons I learned from my experience in this case was that we all need to be aware that we cannot count on bands, concert promoters, club owners, bouncers -- or even fire officials -- to ensure our safety. We need to be our own best fire marshals. To be safe, go with your gut. If it feels wrong, or dangerous, leave. No show is worth your life."
After the fire at the Station, this was my mantra. I had a hard time returning to the live music scene at all, and when I did, it certainly wasn't belly up to the bar. I spent the evening two feet from the emergency exit, ready to bust open the escape hatch. I remember thinking: Will I ever be able to just enjoy the experience again?
Thankfully, yes. But, I realized this weekend, as the fear dissipated, so did my vigilance to develop an exit strategy. This, I am not proud of. So, I'm taking the Brazil nightclub incident as my own personal wake-up call. I will, once again be that, some would say, Debbie Downer, pointing out where the closest exit is and designating a meeting space outside, should something go horribly wrong.
And if anything gets lit inside, beyond a birthday candle on a cake, trust, my crew is out.
I challenge you to do the same.
Your life might depend on it.