Rhode Island Nightclub Fire Survivor On Brink After Disaster

Richard C. Lewis of the Associated Press reports that "Michelle Spence, burned and left debilitated in a Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed 100 people, finally felt good enough to see the rock band POISON recently.

"Her 10-year-old daughter, Hailey, however, was hysterical. She was terrified that her mother would get hurt again. Maybe she'd die in a blaze like the one last February that burned The Station nightclub to the ground, the daughter thought.

"So, every five to 10 minutes, Hailey called her 29-year-old mother and left a message on her cell phone. 'Mommy, give me a call,' Hailey said. 'I want to make sure you're OK.'

"Spence shakes her head at how her daughter has changed. When she goes out, Hailey calls. And cries. And begs for her mommy to return, where it's safe, and there won't be any fires.

" 'She was never like that before,' Spence says. 'Never.'

"Six months after The Station fire, Spence, her daughter, and the entire family are on the edge. Money is tight. Outside support is little, and temporary.

"The five family members — including Spence's two sisters and their mother — share a two-bedroom apartment in Lincoln rented by Spence's sister, Tammy St. Hilaire. She's the only one who works.

"The mother, Wanda St. Hilaire, tries to care for them all. The 49-year-old went back to work in April, but the job didn't last.

"She was waiting tables at a restaurant where Tammy works and Spence did, too, before the fire. But Wanda was forgetful. She'd start crying. She was unable to cope with questions from customers, even the well-intentioned ones. She left after one month.

" 'I try to stay strong for a while,' she says, 'but ... the reality's starting to hit me now, and you feel as if you're falling apart. You try to cope with it, but then you don't know how to.' " Read more.

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