The Saturday, Jan. 26 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured a story titled, “Tattoos Memorialize Tragic Nightclub Fire,” noting the upcoming 10th anniversary of the infamous pyrotechnics-ignited West Warwick, Rhode Island nightclub fire that claimed 100 lives and inflicted injuries on 200 others.
Who could have imagined the irony that before the next edition of the newspaper would reach our doorsteps, an eerily similar incident would occur in Santa Maria, Brazil, killing 230?
There is a tendency to believe that our safety is assured even when greater thought might indicate that it is not, thus a group of mostly young people pack into an overcrowded space to consume alcohol, socialize, hear music, and witness a pyrotechnic display, giving no thought to the potential for catastrophe to ensue. Those who learn the lessons of history know that catastrophe can always occur when elements of it are present: open flame, overcrowding, and an inadequate means to exit a facility in case of emergency.
It is often drummed into the traveler that the first thing he or she should do when entering a hotel room for the first time is to locate the nearest emergency exit and ensure that it is unlocked. How many individuals take similar precautions at a nightclub or bar? My guess would be zero.
Let us hope that reasonable precautions will be taken throughout the world in the future so that such a senseless and horrific tragedy does not afflict any additional grieving families. Surely we can do better in this enlightened era with past experience as our guide.
May God bless the myriad individuals whose lives have been shattered by this latest mass loss of human life and the victims of injury and those who care for them.