NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Twenty-five years ago, an arson fire swept through the Happy Land social club in the Bronx, killing 87 people in what was then the biggest mass murder in U.S. history.

Friends and family members of those who perished are marking the 25th anniversary of the deadly fire Wednesday.

A Roman Catholic Mass will be held in the evening, which will be followed by a procession from the church to a granite memorial near the club, where a candlelight vigil will take place.

Carolina Nunez lives just up the block and went to the granite memorial to look at the names of the loved ones she lost.

“Maribel and Ida Martinez, and Juan Jose Nunez is my brother,” she told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa. “(And they all went out for a night of dancing?) And I did, too. I was there that day.”

Nunez said she was leaving the club early and was near the front door when “I heard the argument with the girlfriend and boyfriend.”

Julio Gonzalez, a Cuban refugee, had gone to Happy Land in an attempt to win back a woman who had spurned him.

His former live-in girlfriend, Lydia Feliciano, was checking coats when they got into an argument and Gonzalez was thrown out.

In a rage, Gonzalez returned around 3 a.m. and splashed gasoline on the nightclub’s only guest exit. He then lit two matches and pulled down the metal front gate.

Within minutes, 87 people were dead.

It happened so quickly that some appeared like frozen figures from Pompeii. A few still had drinks in their hands. Others died hugging or holding hands.

Luis Munez hadn’t been born yet, but his mother lost two brothers in the fire.

“She did all these little angels made out of plaster, and she put every single person’s name on it,” he told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.

Then-19-year-old Jessie Golardo said she was on her way to the club with two friends.

“So we walked toward here. By that time, it was already over … and you could see them pulling out the body bags, and that memory never leaves my mind, even 25 years later,” she said.

Golardo said her three cousins never made it out of the club.

Feliciano survived, as did only a handful of others.

Gonzalez, 60, is serving a life sentence in an upstate New York prison. He was convicted of 174 counts of murder — two for each victim on charges of depraved indifference and felony murder.

He was denied parole earlier this month.

In 1990, Happy Land drew a noisy, happy crowd of mostly young people. It had been ordered to shut down due to fire hazards — no sprinklers or emergency exits — but continued to operate illegally.

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, the site is now a nail salon and tax preparer.

The fire was the worst in New York City since 146 women died in a blaze at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in what is today’s Greenwich Village. They were killed exactly 79 years earlier on March 25, 1911.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)