One of the survivors of the fire that killed eight members of the Cinema Follies film club in Southeast Washington Monday night is a former marine who did not want his name published in the newspaper. In an interview at D.C. General Hospital with Washington Post staff writer Thomas Morgan the man described how he tried unsuccessfully to escape from the smoke-filled second-floor film viewing room where most of the victims were trapped.
"I was seated on the second row when I heard someone say there was smoke and about a minute later someone said there was fire.
"People were pretty orderly at that point. We went toward the stairs but the heat was tremendous. Then I went back up near the screen to where the side exit was . . . There was light coming through underneath the door.
"I held that lock in my hand . . . It was the type you would put a key in from the bottom to open it. When I held that lock in my hand I was very angry. I cannot explain the rage I felt at that moment.
"I started clawing at the door and then went back up to the front but the heat was just too great. We could see almost nothing . . . People went back and forth form the front to the rear near the screen trying to get out.
"There was no screaming (or) yelling while I was awake . . . I heard people ask are there tools that we can use to break the door down to get out and after a couple of minutes I heard someone shout. 'Oh, my God.' But we never heard any explosion.
"I remembered that smoke is less heavy on the floor and I laid down as close as I could to the rear door because I had trouble breathing.The next thing I remember is that I woke up in the emergency room.
"It is somewhat ironic, but it was less than a month ago that I looked at that lock one time on the way out and I asked myself. 'Why have they done that?' But I never mentioned that to anyone."