BOSTON (CBS) – The city of Boston is marking the 71st anniversary of the deadly Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire that killed 492 people.

On Saturday, survivors, family members whose loved ones died in the fire and city officials held a ceremony to rename the road where the nightclub once stood as Cocoanut Grove Lane.

Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser noted that the victims’ legacies live on in the aftermath of the tragedy.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports

“The lives and lives of many others lost in this fire brought about change in fire department operations, national standards, improvements in building and fire code and regulations that have made our city and the world a safer place to live,” he said during the ceremony.

Former Boston Fire Commissioner Paul Christian also pointed to the lessons learned from the worst nightclub fire in U.S. history.

“The cab drivers and the newspaper delivery trucks, they became ambulances. Ordinary civilians just jumped in and helped,” Christian said. “The lessons of the Cocoanut Grove are clear and they’re just as important as they were in 1942. It is only through constant vigilance that tragedies like this can be avoided.”

Former chorus boy Marshall Cole was among the survivors at Saturday’s ceremony.

“I was very lucky. A lot of people didn’t make it, God rest their souls,” Cole said. “A man came running by me through my dressing room, crashed through a window and went out on the roof. I figured if he’s going that fast, I better get out of here!”

Christopher O’Neil, whose grandparents died in the fire, started a charity to support pediatric burn victims.

“We’re here to honor them and make sure the story continues,” he said Saturday. “The war was raging. There wasn’t a lot of talk about it because it was knocked off the headlines fairly quickly (because of) things happening over in Europe.”


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