A Fire’s Unseen Burns
THE SOURCE: “The Long-Term Impact of Physical and Emotional Trauma: The Station Nightclub Fire” by Jeffrey C. Schneider, Nhi-Ha T. Trinh, Elizabeth Selleck, Felipe Fregni, Sara S. Salles, Colleen M. Ryan, and Joel Stein, in Plos One, Oct. 2012.
On February 20, 2003, the 1980s metal band Great White opened its set at the Station, a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, with an impressive pyrotechnic display. The packed house of more than 450 fans roared their approval. But sparks landed on flammable sound insulation near the stage, igniting a furious blaze. The fire became one of the deadliest in U.S. history: In the panicked rush to escape, 100 people were killed and 200 more were injured.
The trauma that night left an indelible mark on the survivors. Surveying them several years after the event, Jeffrey C. Schneider, a physician at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues found high rates of alcohol abuse, depression, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. There may be lessons in the experience on how to treat survivors of all kinds of trauma, from war to natural disasters.
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