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We began the week with the story of the Chicago nightclub fire in which 21 people were killed as they rushed to the exit. The club had already been cited for overcrowding and other safety violations--like not enough doors and windows. What happened was that a bouncer used pepper spray to break up a fight, and people panicked, thinking it was a chemical weapons attack, and fled down a narrow stairway. And then as if that weren't enough, we're still reeling from last Thursday's fire in a Rhode Island nightclub which saw over 96 people killed and more than 50 others injured as they desperately tried to escape a fire started when the band set off pyrotechnics as part of their act. News reports say that in addition to burn injuries many people were badly cut from smashing out windows in a frantic attempt to get out of the building. Another witness said that people trampled on each other as they tried to squeeze through the club's front door. One minute everybody was dancing and drinking and having a good time; the next minute they were screaming in terror in a mindless attempt to escape.

But even if someone had warned them, no one would have believed that such a thing would happen. There was a news crew there that night filming the club as an example of a safe venue, one in which a tragedy like the Chicago stampede could never have taken place. No one ever really believes that such a disaster might happen to them--until it does. We're like that, we humans, aren't we? taking our lives for granted until something turns our world upside down. Our eyes skip right over the danger signs; we don't even hear the sirens. It can't be for us... The bell is tolling for someone else.

" will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as the days of Noah were, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage ... they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man." [Mt 24:37-39]

(From a sermon by Alison Bucklin, Open Door Policy, 6/22/2011)

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