R.I. Club Rescuers Struggle With Memories
WEST WARWICK, R.I. (AP) _ The sight of two badly burned people in the back of a pickup truck warned firefighter Frederick Bricker that this was going to be no ordinary blaze.
``They were burned so badly they were still smoking,″ the 32-year-old Coventry firefighter said. ``We threw mounds of snow on them.″
Then he walked into his worst nightmare at a place where he had spent many nights playing pool and socializing. The fire Thursday night at The Station nightclub killed 96 people and injured more than 180.
``You could see people laying at the door, stacked up like a cord of wood, arms hanging over the pile,″ he said Saturday.
Bricker spent the next three hours finding blankets and sheets to cover the bodies lined up on stretchers outside the club.
Then he went home to his wife and three children, the gruesome scenes from still playing out in his mind.
``You don’t want to close your eyes, you still see it,″ he said.
As public attention shifts from the deadly fire to identifying its victims and cause, grief counselors work behind the scenes with dozens of firefighters and rescue workers like Bricker.
The experience is still too fresh and painful for many of them to discuss, said West Warwick Fire Chief Charles Hall, whose department was first on the scene.
``What I’ve told my guys who are upset is that there’s nothing we could have done differently. It was just a superhuman effort,″ Hall said. He became emotional himself while discussing a friend’s son who died in the blaze.
``This really walloped me this morning,″ he said Saturday.
Hall said the state has sent counselors to talk with his firefighters, and he plans several group meetings ``so they can vent, if they have to.″
Counselors, including clergy members and former firefighters, have visited several local firehouses and worked at the scene the night of the fire.
Warwick firefighter Peter Ginaitt, who spent six hours assessing injuries for more than 100 people who fled the club, was among those counseled at the scene.
``It was like the night of the living dead,″ said Ginaitt, 42, a 20-year veteran firefighter. ``For the first few minutes you are there you are in as much shock as everybody else.″