I read the book, "To Sleep with the angels" years ago. It affected me to tears...I want to say that on this horrible anniversary that all of us here, and many of us who read about the tragedy's anniversary in the paper this am are thinking about you, and hope that you recive some peace from this message board.
I am 36, obviously was not alive at the time, but the injustice struck me deeply--or as deeply as it can for not having actually been there.Years later, I read the Michelle McBride book, and I didn't realize that the physical pain never abates.
My only experience with fire was a fire-hazard of a tiny club venue. I smelled smoke, like paper burning. There were maybe 10 people that came to see us play in this junk-filled basement, and I considered myself responsible for them due to all these types of tragedies, all of which were running through my mind just then. There were two exits, a stairway (dangerous by nature) and a back exit for all purposes, blocked off by junk behind where we were to be playing. I said, "We can't start until I figure out where that smell is coming from." Turned out, some guys had a barbeque they started with paper, and the smell was seeping into the building.
Physical pain must be easier to have to live with in some ways than the memories. I was very sorry to read that McBride passed, and yet hopefully, she has found some peace after all these years--and I hope wherever she is that there is some reason for this tragic event that maybe we can't comprehend. I don't know how someone could get through a day if it were all arbitrary.
I want to hope that history never repeats itself, but what bothers me about these events the most is that things never change as much or as well as we hope they will. The awful fire in RI a few years ago was almost identical to the Cocoanut Grove in Boston in the 40's--overcrowding and flammable decorations, along with alcohol, which makes people not move as fast. When people are having fun, they will literally watch a fire burn in front of them, when there isn't a single second to waste.
I know of theatres with curtains to this day that aren't fire-code worthy becuase they're cheaper. Nothing and no amount of money is worth potentially hurting or killing someone. And I can tell you for a fact, no one clips a picece of curtain off and really finds out if the curtain is indeed fireproof. The Iroquis Fire on the site of the Ford Center for the Performing arts happened in this way; to 602 deaths. Not even a marker there. And it's still a very narrow, stair-laden wacky setup building.
Maybe fire survivor organizations can help by even being there to make sure fire-related things really are safe and not flammable, and shut places down that aren't. "Nothing's going to happen" is the most dangerous sentence in the English language; becuase it's an excuse to cut corners and "save money." And in every book I have ever read about fires, they always say "the fire codes changed dramatically..." There shouldn't BE a "grandfather clause" for not having sprinklers in a public building, even though most deaths and injuries occur in house fires--so please check you smoke alarms. Sprinkers don't cost more than carpeting.
What has changed? Maybe the tragedies of OLA and related incidents are to be changed in smaller increments. I studied crowd behaviour, and pick exits at the backs of places that no one came in at; as that's where everyone would go to. If I were playing a rock concert, I consider all those people to be my responsibility. I think of every possibility; which is the only way to be safe: always be completely ready for the worst. Have fire extinguishers always ready with the plastic ties already cut off. Fires move extremely fast, and you won't remember that if something bad happened right then. Most people freeze if a serious event happens--you must train yourself to act instead. Put the urge to panic aside til later.
When builing a house or new rooms, they do make fireproof and fire-resistant insulation for inside the walls. You buy it from recording studio insulation manufacturers. Yes, it's expensive, but if the room were even semi-sound proof, you can't believe you'd even hear a smoke alarm. Please be careful about overloading outlets and high-power appliances like a/c units (esp. in old buildings with only two electrical lines--know what line runs what and never run two high-power things on the same line at the same time), microwaves, amplifiers, hair dryers--anything that makes the lights dim a bit. These are always things that have three-pronged plugs on them.
Anything plugged into the wall can start a fire. ALWAYS use surge protectors and ground fault outlets or ground-fault plug-ins esp. around water. Ground-fault outlets have the red and black buttons on them, but you can buy one that assigns the electricity to the ground (where it always wants to go) rather than using our 75% water body content as a shortcut. Get a licensed electrician to make sure you are safe.
Animals and children can bite through cords and the surge protector will (or has in my experience) taken the brunt, and burnt out, and not hurt anyone or caused a fire in the process. Tape your cords to the wall if there's ANY potential you might spill something on the floor, or it might come into contact with water for any reason. At my house, the roof once totally failed and I woke up to it literally raining in my living room! In 60 years we've lived here, the basement never flooded, but I'm ready for it if it ever happened; as I do have a music room with a lot of power running there.
Think of where large amounts of water will end up if the bathtub overflows or a 200 gallon fishtank breaks. Use marbles and see where your water's gonna end up.
Never forget about your friend the rubber-soled shoe. If you happend to be standing in water (even dampness will work just fine) for some reason, and you're barefoot, and you then touch a short, even a tiny-powered lightbulb then has the right conditions to stupidly and senselessly kill you. Had you worn rubber shoes, you might get lucky, as the electricity can't go through the bottom of your foot, as it can't pass through rubber. Never get into the habit of picking at bagels in the toaster with butterknives! I've seen many brilliant people setting bad habits for their kids in these dumb kinds of ways.
At this time of year, water your x-mas trees...all that stuff is highly flammable...My aunt had friends that went to OLA. My family's been here for a long time, and you can sense that it still affects residents of Chicago that were here at the time when it comes up. I hope I didn't get too far off subject; but if my paranoia stopped someone from being hurt, than maybe it was worth it. I would like to have made a positive contribution to the board over being sad and not changing things to be better and safer.
I wish all of you well, Michelle M