Published February 23, 2003
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In the smallest state in the nation, where everyone seems to know everyone else, the connections run deep to the victims of the West Warwick nightclub fire.
"They say there are six degrees of separation in this world. In Rhode Island, there's a degree and a half," Attorney General Patrick Lynch said Sunday. "The pain rips through this community quicker than any other."
Rhode Island is only 1,214 square miles, measuring 48 miles long and 37 miles wide.
Across its tight-knit communities, residents spent the weekend waiting in union for identification of the victims and braced themselves for the worst.
"With every name that's released, someone will come and say, 'Gee, I know that person. That person was a friend of my son or daughter,'" said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
"As these names come out, more and more people realize the intimate connection they've had with victims," he said. "People who grow up in Rhode Island tend to stay in Rhode Island."
Arlene Violet, a lifelong Rhode Islander and talk show host on WHJJ-AM, said the tragedy has bonded residents.
"September 11th brought our country together, but I think this fire is bringing this state together," she said.
Christine Sipka agreed.
"September 11th hit us hard, but this is going to be felt a lot closer to home," said Sipka, a Coventry resident who went to the site of the West Warwick fire Friday.
"There's no such thing as, 'This happened in West Warwick, Rhode Island,'" Violet said. "It's so close, the person in Providence feels it, the person in Coventry. It's right next door."