Permanent Blue Bird Cafe memorial to recall 37 fire victims
MONTREAL - A permanent memorial will be installed on the site of the historic Blue Bird Café fire, it was announced at a vigil Thursday night to mark the 39th anniversary of the blaze which claimed 37 lives.
"We're mandated to work with representatives of the family to come up with a suitable commemoration that will be ready for next year," said Executive Committee member Helen Fotopulos, who represented the city while speaking to those who gathered for the solemn occasion.
About 100 people attended the candle-lighting ceremony to mourn the mostly young Anglophones who perished in the fire set by two drunks refused entry into the bar.
For many it was the first time they met others who had been stricken with the tragic loss of a loved one in the senseless event.
"I myself was like a zombie for about a year after this happened. I was not there at all," said David Montgomery whose sister did not escape the flames.
Former police officer Andre Mainville was the first to get to the scene. He also helped apprehend the three who were eventually sentenced to life in prison for the crime. "The first was arrested 31 hours later and two others were arrested in Vancouver two or three days later," he recalls.
Perpetrators James O'Brien, Gilles Eccles and Marc Boutin were sentenced to life in prison but were paroled in the early 1980s.
Some who survived the incident showed up to remember those less fortunate. They included Darrell Perrin who did his best to help others escape.
"Before we could get the door open, they started to jump on the rail on our heads, and they were crowding up behind us on the stairs," said Perrin.
The exact nature of the upcoming permanent memorial, whether it be a plaque or another representation remains undetermined but the city will work with the families of the victims to find something suitable.
It was news that lit up the mood of at least one survivor.
"I can't tell what you that means as a family member to know that our loved ones are going to be recognized, and people will know what happened here on this site," said Marlie Wirtanen, who lost a sister in the fire.
The vigil took place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. near the parking lot at 1180 Union where the building once stood.