A Tragedy Waiting to Happen
The tragic nightclub fire in Perm, Russia, over the weekend just leaves one shaking one's head.
(Characteristically of our time who can find video of the attempts to get out on You Tube. This is too voyeuristic for me to post.) This kind of accident occurs repeatedly as if no one ever learns from well documented past experience. These tragedies are predictable if there are not proper rules and regulations in place with proper enforcement.
The nightclub business comes and goes rapidly, often in the hands of quick buck promoters. A club is created and promoted and becomes the "in place" for a while. Invariably, they are decorated in cheap materials, predictably flammable. Some or most possible exits are covered over, like doors and windows ,to create the ambiance. I remember one I went to in New Haven years ago call the Purple Chicken and it was like a big cavern with exits hard to find. These places invariably are over crowded exceeding the legal limit of occupants. Worse of all, those who run these clubs to make a quick dollar want to make sure no one get in without paying so the emergency exits are locked and in some cases even welded shut thus requiring entrance through a well protected paying entrance. A simple flame in such a place can quickly get out of hand. The use of pyrotechnics in such a place is just reckless. We should not be surprised that such places having dreadful fires but we should be outraged that they are not closely regulated.
This reminded me of the most famous and disastrous of nightclub fires The Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston in November of 1942., where 492 patrons died and many were badly injured in the overcrowded facility. When I lived in Boston I became aware of this historic fire which left a scar on the history of that city that people continued to mention from time to time. It was supposed to have changed the way building codes and regulations were written and enforced in North America.
Out of this tragedy, Dr Eric Lindemann did his famous grief studies on Acute Grief. He was the right person at the right time to accomplish this. These have been landmark studies of the nature of grief, which are still referred to today in all the literature in this field.
When I was training as a chaplain at the Goodwill Industries sheltered workshop in downtown Boston I met a man who I came to realize suffered from "Acute Grief in Older Men" that Lindemann identified. I had only talked to him a couple of times when he very carefully drew out of his chest pocket a photo. It was a photo of his wife, who had died several years before.
"This is all I have left." he stated in quiet flat tones as his eyes welled up in tears. I came to learn he had five children and many grandchildren but for him this picture was all he had left of his life.
He could not get past the loss of his wife that he loved so much. According to Lindemann he might never get over it. Even years on, he remained inconsolable with the raw emotion just below the surface. It was a lesson for this young cleric. From the outside, one often comes to the point with grieving people that you want to tell them to get over it and move on. Count the blessings you do have and find a reason for being. (Never in such blunt harsh terms). This encounter made me much more patient and understanding of people who grieved long and possibly even for the rest of their lives.
I. personally, came to suffer a prolonged grief over the loss of my marriage. I had a therapist friend who once told me I had been depressed and grieving for nearly 20 years. It did seem to take that long. I finally got over it.. . . .I think.
It is hard to imagine if anything good can come out the continual recurrence of these nightclub fires. (There is a list of the worst ones in the article above in Wikipedia on the Cocoanut Grove Fire) One can only hope that, every time there is one, the regulators we depend on to guarantee these places are safe take another look and redouble their efforts. If you are still of the age when clubbing is fun, take a long hard look at the club you are in from a safety standpoint. You may have a moment of clarity and leave. This fun tribal experience is not worth you life.