Howard Ray, Jr., remembers Feb. 17, 2003, vividly.

“It was a very, very cold night. When I got there it was just major chaos,” said Ray, Jr. “I never wanna see anything like that again.”

The E2 nightclub stampede – where 21 people died waiting to be rescued from the doorway of the Chicago club – continues to strike a chord with victims’ families. Howard Ray, Sr., organized an E2 memorial breakfast on Feb. 15, and said he wants the event to provide a source of support and comfort, as well as inform the families what needs to happen next.

“It’s a hard thing to have events like this, but we need to work through it because if we don’t, nothing will come of it,” said Ray, Sr. “We will not have the independent investigation we need if we don’t do this.”

After 11 years, families are still finding ways to cope with the tragedy.

“It brings back memories,” said Walter Greene, whose daughter died in E2. “You just have to deal with it, pick yourself up and go on.”

Ray, Sr., said it is important for families to continue pushing forward to get justice – making the city take responsibility for the tragedy – for the victims. In fact, the family has long called for an independent investigation, something city officials haven’t granted.

“Family members would like to forget about it,” said Ray, Sr. “I would like to forget about it, but if I forget about it nothing will happen. Everything we have done so far will be undone.”

Despite the tragedy, and the families’ perceived lack of justice so far, Ray, Jr., said some good came out of it.

“It brought us together with these families,” he said. “Anytime you meet people, it’s a good thing. We didn’t know them, now we know them. But it’s a shame we were brought together on a tragic incident.” 

Originally published by Medill News Service

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