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Honduran Woman’s American Dream Shattered by Club Fire With AM-Social Club Fire

March 26, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two and one-half years ago, Alva Romero left Honduras full of hope that life would be better in the United States.

Her dreams came crashing down Sunday when six members of her family were killed in a fire at an illegal social club that claimed a total of 87 lives.

″We came here to better ourselves but this is what we get,″ a grief- stricken Romero said moments after confirming that her two brothers, a sister, her daughter, a cousin and a niece had perished in the early morning fire at the Happy Land club.

It wasn’t political upheaval or severe dissatisfaction with Honduras that brought her here, she said. It was, quite simply, opportunity.

″This is America. We all would have a chance to do better here,″ she said as she dabbed her eyes. ″Now, I don’t know. ...″

Here, the 34-year-old woman worked in people’s homes, helping the elderly and sick to feed and clothe themselves.

But on Sunday, it was friends and relatives who helped Romero at a nearby school, where the bereaved were taken to learn the awful truth. The brothers were 33 and 21 years old; the sister, daughter and cousin all were 18; the niece, 17. Her husband had remained in Honduras.

″They had been to the club before and they liked it,″ Romero said. ″It had been three weeks since they had been there.″

″And, last night,″ she said, her voice choking with emotion, ″Last night, they all decided to go back to the club. I don’t know why.″

Nelson Moll, a Red Cross volunteer, said Romero was one of the first to show up at the school at about 10 a.m. where photographs of the dead were displayed.

When she saw the pictures of her family, Romero slumped forward, devastated by the news.

″She looked at the pictures and she just broke down pretty bad,″ he said.

Six hours later, after viewing the photographs and the bodies at the morgue, a still-shocked Romero passively, almost distantly, answered reporters’ questions.

Will she stay in the United States?

″I don’t know. Everything is changed. I don’t know.″

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