CHICAGO – When Chiquita Rhodes arrived at the Cook County Medical Examiner's office on cold and bleak Monday morning, she was clinging to a wisp of hope that her younger sister was still alive.
Charita Rhodes, 19, had been dancing at the E2 nightclub when 21 patrons were killed in a stampede. Charita and a friend had clung to each other in the chaos, but Charita had not been able to hang on.
Her friend got out alive, but the only trace of Charita was her cell phone, which was found by a firefighter.
"She was wearing a black shirt, a bluejeans skirt and boots," Chiquita said anxiously. "I've been to every emergency room."
Chiquita was told to return when the bodies would be available for relatives to identify. She did return, and as she left the second time, words seemed unnecessary. Coatless and oblivious to the bitter cold, she wept.
It was a grim ritual repeated throughout the afternoon at the county morgue. Some people collapsed as they left the building and were hustled away by relatives.
One woman, surrounded by friends, shouted to reporters again and again, "Please tell me what you are all going to do about this club. That's all I want to know."
Crying "Why? Why? Why?" she was picked up by a man who placed her inside a van.
Herschel Blake got a phone call Monday that sent him to the morgue in search of his 22-year-old grandson, Michael Wilson, who was going to school to become a mechanic.
"I just can't understand it," Blake said. "His mother called me and said, 'Your grandson is dead. The door was locked. There was only one way out of the place."'
"I'm just glad his brothers weren't with him," Blake said. He said he had seen his grandson the previous night at a family birthday party. Wilson left before midnight to go to the club.
The causes of the deaths were still under investigation.