Rhythm fire should be remembered

Published 4:25 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2007

April 23, 1940, was a big night for teenagers and young adults in Natchez.

A long-anticipated dance was planned at the Rhythm Night Club and the excitement level was high.

The club’s owner reportedly decorated with Spanish moss, and more than 200 people crowded in for the party.

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Something went wrong, a fire started on the moss and people were trapped. The death count was more than 200, making the tragedy the second deadliest fire in U.S. history to date.

Many of those left behind were children like Robert Johnson, who was a year and a half old or Eugenia Perry a junior high student.

These children were left to cope with something they didn’t understand.

Sixty-seven years later the children are grown. They’ve lived through happiness and more sadness. They’ve raised families of their own and likely shared the joys of grandchildren.

And each year, they gather again to remember their parents, aunts, uncles and friends. Detailed memories have faded by now, but the love remains.

The memories are slowly being worn down by the passage of time.

In recent years the ceremony on the bluff has decreased in size to between 20 and 30 people. Time is taking its toll on the Rhythm Night Club legacy.

The physical reminder on the bluff remains, in the form of a memorial marker, and the story is one Natchez should remember.