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'Help me, I don't want to die like this, help me'

©Associated Press
February 19, 2003

CHICAGO -- More than a day after the crushing madness inside a Chicago nightclub, Aurelio Kidd couldn't believe all he could do to help was feed the victims slivers of ice, hold their hands and watch some of them die.

"They were screaming for their lives, 'Help me, I don't want to die like this, help me,' " Kidd said Tuesday from his home in Gary, Ind., sounding weary and dazed by what he saw at the E2 nightclub early Monday.

Twenty-one people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the rush to get out after someone used pepper spray inside the club.

The dead, ranging in age from 19 to 43, were remembered as friends and hard workers. One was a hairdresser, one was a hospital security guard and another hoped to someday become a nurse. At least a dozen were parents.

Kidd, 22, said he has barely been able to sleep: Every time he closes his eyes he thinks about the people to whom he had yelled to squeeze his hand "to just let me know they are living."

Then those memories are pushed aside by images of those who never responded: the pregnant woman he picked up who was dead and two others who died shortly after he got to them.

Jamarr Hayes, 22, remembers falling and being buried by people not far from the club's exit. As he rested at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Hayes said he knew he was being smothered.

"I closed my eyes and said 'God, don't let me die like this,' " he said.

Others turned to church "to be consoled, to get a grasp or understanding and to seek answers," said Larry Hampton, a minister who attended a prayer service with about 100 other people at Sweet Holy Spirit Church.

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