Happy Land Social Club fire victims remembered

EAST TREMONT - Family and friends gathered at a memorial mass and candlelight vigil on Southern Boulevard Tuesday to remember loved ones who died 18 years ago in the Happy Land Social Club fire.

The 1990 blaze was one of the deadliest in the city's history, killing 87 people. It started when a man set fire to the club after seeing his ex-girlfriend with another man. Padlocked exits made it nearly impossible to escape the building. Only six people survived.

Most of the victims were Honduran and the memorial mass at St. Augustine Church was said in Garifuna, one of the country's native languages.

The following candlelight vigil took place at the Plaza of the 87, named after the victims.

Leaders in the Honduran community see the memorial as a turning point for the immigrant group. A number of Honduran organizations teamed with victims' family members to create the Happy Land 87 Committee, which leaders hope will one day become a larger umbrella organization that will address the needs of the Honduran community at large.

Another memorial mass is scheduled at St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Sunday, March 30 - at 9 a.m.

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