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Op-ed: Let's remember the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire while we plan the next steps

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Posted at 6:00 AM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 09:12:17-04

Jim Hamberg is mayor of Southgate, Ky. Steve Pendery is judge-executive of Campbell County.

May 28, 1977, is a date many in Southgate, Campbell County, Northern Kentucky, and Greater Cincinnati will not soon forget.

Forty years ago this month, the Beverly Hills Supper Club burned and took 165 souls in a tragedy that ranks as the seventh deadliest public assembly or nightclub fire in U.S. history. It is the third worst and most recent of such nightclub fires.

RELATED: Oral history: Even after 40 years, it still feels like the fire 'happened last night' 

In the decades that have gone by, the tragedy of that night has left its indelible mark on many more lives than the ones that were lost -- or almost lost -- and those that loved them.

Every community in our region helped as they could. The communities of Southgate and Fort Thomas, particularly, were in deep shock but rushed to provide aid to those in need.

And since that day many Mays ago, scores of fire safety regulations, which have been instrumental in preventing other disasters, can trace their genesis to aspects of the Beverly building itself and the evacuation effort that night. 

As much as we focus this month on what happened 40 years ago, as community leaders today we are looking toward the future. Many plans for the site’s redevelopment have come and gone through the years. We are still in that pattern today but remain hopeful that the eventual new use for nearly 80-acre site will be configured such that the Beverly fire is appropriately remembered.

To that end, the City of Southgate is looking forward to the opportunity to lead the way in developing a permanent, fitting memorial at the site in the near future.

Our hope is that, on May 28 of this year, you might take a minute to remember the tragedy, as well as the victims and their families. We hope you remember how profoundly this event shaped the life of our community. And we hope you will remember that your leaders are moving forward to write the next chapter in the history of the hill that still sits proudly in the small city of Southgate.