Jack Russell and Mark Kendall of the band GREAT WHITE, whose pyrotechnics set off the disastrous fire at The Station nightclub, appeared Wednesday night (Feb. 9) on CNN's "Larry King Live". Joining them on the program were badly burned and blinded survivors of that deadly disaster as well as the father of GREAT WHITE guitarist Ty Longley, who perished in the fire.
The appearance came less than two weeks before the two-year anniversary of the fire, which broke out on the night of Feb. 20, 2003, at the West Warwick club. One hundred people died and more than 200 were hurt in the state's worst fire and one of the worst nightclub fires in the country's history. Several excerpts from the show transcript follow:
Larry King: In the aftermath, was it hard, Jack, to get out?
Jack Russell: Actually, I was pulled out. I'm not sure who pulled me out the back door. To this, day I don't know. I kept trying to go back in and make sure my guys and people had gotten out. I kept getting pulled out and pulled out. And finally I just couldn't see in there. I thought the lights had gone out. Not — never knowing that the fire was going to go as bad as it was. Nobody knew.
Larry King: Was it hard for you to get out, Mark?
Mark Kendall: No. I just saw the side door open. And I felt like I should go out the door just to get out of the way so they could put it out because it didn't look that bad. So, I was very easy to get out. But once I was out, I did see it get a little worse.
Larry King: Did you know that had happened to your guitarist?
Jack Russell: No. Nobody knew. We didn't know anything about Ty until the next day. I was looking for everybody after we got out. And I went to the front of the building — and we all thought the same time it would be put out, we would go back in and finish the show. That was the original thought.
Larry King: What was it like to deal with Jack, afterwards, emotionally for you?
Jack Russell: You know, it is still very hard. There is not a day that goes by that you don't think about that. I mean, the initial reaction was I was completely in shock. It was almost surreal to a point. The therapy is ongoing. As I'm sure with everybody there is.
I'm one of the lucky ones myself. I got out. And — but I don't think anybody that was there came away unharmed some way or another.
Larry King: For you, Mark?
Mark Kendall: Well, I, you know, I went and talked to a few psychotherapists until I settled on one that I could actually felt like I could kind of pour my heart out to. And just prayer, praying with my pastor.
I felt like I was getting temporary relief from that. But being able to go out and, you know, be a part of this crusade to help the families of the victims has been — and the fellowship, that's been the best part of the human process for me.
Larry King: Was it hard to go back to work, Jack?
Jack Russell: You know, very hard. I don't — I think if it wasn't for the fact of the Station Family Fund, you know, people that we'd been working with over the couple of years to raise money for the families and I don't think we would have done it. It was that and the literally tens of thousands of e-mails we have gotten from people around the world, you know, supporting the band and telling me how much the music meant to them and how much it changed their lives in a positive aspect is what really got me back on the horse. Because there was times I thought I can't do this again. How can I go back and — where is the fun going to be? How can you smile again? How can you, you know?
Larry King: Are you touring, Mark?
Mark Kendall: Yes. I was in the same position as Jack is. I didn't even touch my guitar, I don't think, for at least four months until I found out that, wow, we can actually help. And, you know, I was all for that. There is just no question. I talked to my wife, she said, yes, go for it. You can help and it's great.
Jack Russell: We're back on the road again in March.
Larry King: You're doing a tour in March?
Jack Russell: Yes, we start again in March. We had the last few months off. Generally we tour from usually March until October.
Larry King: Do you ever feel, Jack and you too, Mark, 'Why me, why did I live?'
Jack Russell: You know, I thought of that for a long time. There was kind of a survivor's guilt thing that people go through, I hear about in tragedies of this magnitude. And for the longest time I did that, why me? Why couldn't this happen to somebody else? And then my wife is saying, you know what, Jack, it is like God gives you things that you can handle and maybe he gave you this for a reason. And what are you going to do with this? Are you going to try to help people or are you going to sit there and feel sorry for yourself and hide in the house or are you going to go out there and do something positive and help your friends out? So that was kind of, like, OK, now I know what I got to do.
Read the entire transcript at this location.