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Saved His Life

Saturday night, of Thanksgiving weekend, and the Coconut Grove was packed. Waiters were setting up extra tables to handle the diners. The overflow from the dining room surged down a narrow stairway to the Melody Lounge. This dimly lit basement bar offered a South Seas ambiance, with artificial palm trees, driftwood, rattan and a ceiling draped in blue satin. The only illumination came from behind the bar, supplemented by low-wattage bulbs hidden in the palms. Even this was too bright for one young man. He reached up, unscrewed a bulb and settled back in his date’s arms. Like many others there, he was in uniform.

It was 1942; the U.S. had been fighting WWII for nearly a year. Dr. Vincent Senna was having dinner that night in the Grove and was paged because one of his patients had gone into labor. Grumbling, Senna rushed to the hospital in time to deliver the baby...and save his life. Because after he left, for still unknown reasons, the Coconut Grove burst into flames, and over 490 people died in the smoke and flames. The interruption that ruined his evening also saved his life!

Reader’s Digest, Nov., 1992