Families of men and women who died in the E2 nightclub stampede on the Near South Side 10 years ago today gathered for a prayer vigil outside the vacant building.
Stuffed animals, roses, Valentine's Day candy and a picture of each victim adorned the 21 white crosses on Sunday afternoon. About 20 people gathered on the sidewalk. They gave each other somber embraces. They told stories. They cried.
Many families said they are plagued by ongoing lawsuits and longing for closure, with no one held accountable in their loved ones' deaths.
"She was too young and too beautiful for this," said David McGraw, father of Latorya McGraw, who was 24 when she died in the overcrowded nightclub. "It continues to be devastating."
Latorya's daughter, Shapara Hicks, 16, was just 6 years old when her mother died.
"I didn't know her," Hicks said, her vibrant green eyes staring toward the sun. "Well, I remember getting my hair done. She used to do my hair. I wish I knew her more."
Fights broke out on the second floor of the club on the 2300 block of South Michigan Avenue shortly before 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 17, 2003. The ensuing chaos climaxed when security guards used pepper spray to break up the fights. The crowd made a dash for a narrow stairwell, where 21 people died in the stampede or asphyxiated at the bottom of the stairs.
On Sunday, several family members who had been at the club with their loved ones when they died stood with their heads hung low as the Rev. Corey Brooks prayed.
“Lord, we call on you, because we don’t know who else to call on,” Brooks said. “We pray for strength of all of the loved ones who’ve been left behind.”
Alexceon Myers, 35, had been with his brother Antonio Myers at the club when his brother got caught in the chaos and died.
Searching for words and working past emotions, Alexceon said the hardest part is seeing how his brother’s death affects his parents and his family. His sister Anjenita Myers-Davis joined him at the vigil.
“You want to get closure,” Myers said. “As a family, we’ve just been trying to move on.”
After the prayer, pink, blue and yellow balloons were passed around to the 20 or so people huddled for the vigil on the sunny, cold afternoon. Some had the numbers “21” and “1” and “0” to represent the 21 lives lost and 10 years that have passed.
Those gathered released the balloons in unison, while saying the name of their loved ones.
"We love you," several people shouted, tears streaming down many faces. "We miss you."