WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — In a ceremony Monday morning, families and survivors of the Station Nightclub Fire gathered at the site in West Warwick — where a memorial is under construction — to mark the 14 years since the tragedy. While some 200 people survived injuries, 100 people were killed.
By the 15th anniversary next year, there will likely be a new permanent memorial park open to the public. Gina Russo, a survivor of the fire whose fiancé perished, says the memorial is slated to open this spring. Russo has led the fundraising campaign for the Station Fire Memorial Foundation.
Completion of the park is “bittersweet,” Russo said on Monday after a brief prayer and reflection outside the under-construction memorial park. “It doesn’t end it. Most of us look at our scars every day, or the emotional impact that it had. But I think a lot of us are ready, and once the park is open and ready it’ll be beautiful.”
“This is a place to come and reflect and feel good,” said Jody King, who lost his 39-year-old brother Tracy in the 2003 fire. “Do I still cry? Absolutely. Do I miss him alot? Like it were yesterday. Do I want him back? Yeah,” King said. He has Tracy’s face tattooed on his chest.
King says the support from Rhode Islanders over the past four years has been overwhelming.
“They held our hands, they took care of us,” King said. “For years. And they’re still doing it. Rhode Islanders still coming forward and pouring their hearts out.”
The memorial is expected to be finished and formally dedicated in the spring. It will feature a courtyard, gardens, a walkway and a stone with each victim’s name, shaped like speaker boxes — in homage to the music that the victims loved and had gone to see at the club the night of February 20, 2003.
In October, the foundation finished raising $2 million for construction, but Russo said maintenance and upkeep will require further fundraising.
Dave Kane, whose 18-year-old son Nick was the youngest victim of the Station fire, says the opening of the memorial should serve as an educational tool. He’s been an advocate for improved fire safety standards since the fire.
“It’s important that everybody know it’s not just about remembering the people who passed,” Kane said Monday. “We’re hoping that this memorial will remind people what happens when elected and appointed public safety officials don’t do their jobs.”