A generation has now passed since that terrible night in 2003 when so many of us were changed forever. It began as an early start to the weekend on a night when people were feeling a bit of cabin fever and ended as the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. Very few Rhode Islanders were left unscathed, most everyone could claim that they knew someone who knew someone who was there that night. My best friend’s life was cut short that night, not long after his fortieth birthday.

After criminal prosecutions, multiple civil settlements, and the final dedication of a permanent memorial, the argument can be made that while the original pain may have faded somewhat, it has gained an almost genetic component, and become part of the DNA of Rhode Islanders. As mid-February approaches every year, I know I’m not the only one who starts to feel the sense of psychological and emotional dread begin to encroach.

Donald Carcieri was Governor then. Perhaps his finest moment came in response to this crisis when he urged us all to comfort one another in a time of great need. In the aftermath of the fire, many non-profits were established in the names of the victims and survivors and some have done amazing things. If you knew someone, and there’s still a vehicle for donating in their name, please consider making a donation; you never know whose life you may affect for the better.

During these times, I’d urge everyone to find a way to come together over an event that affected us all. Maybe look back to another governor, J. Joseph Garrahy, and his flannel shirt from the “Blizzard of ’78,” another February crisis that became ingrained in our collective DNA, as an example.

Now is the time to commit ourselves to work with our neighbors, do random acts of kindness, pay things forward, and try to be our best selves. Think of how the person you knew from the fire that affected your life would want you to act.

If my friend, Mike, were still alive, he’d be working with students at our alma mater’s radio station and passing along everything he knew, not to mention spoiling my kids (young men) any way he could. Many knew his public persona, but he was also one of the most generous people you could imagine. It’s in his memory I write this, and why I urge everyone to be like Mike.

WhatsUpNewp contributor Thom Cahir is the co-chair of the Michael J. Gonsalves ’86 Fund at Rhode Island College. Gonsalves, also known as “Dr. Metal,” was a popular DJ at WHJY, where he hosted the ”Metal Zone,” a long-running heavy-metal show.

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