Station Fire Memorial dedication is set
Memorial Park ceremony to take place on May 21
WEST WARWICK — On Sunday, May 21, people will gather at the former site of the Station Night Club on Cowesett Ave for the longawaited opening of the Station Fire Memorial Park. It has been more than 14 years since 100 people lost their lives in what is now considered one of the deadliest night club fires in U.S. history. Now, those who were affected by the tragic event will have a proper space to reflect on how their lives have changed since February 20, 2003, and will have some closure in knowing their loved ones’ memories are permanently etched into West Warwick’s history.
Music is expected to begin at 1 p. m. and the speaking program at 2 p.m. Guests will include Governor Gina Raimondo, U.S. Senator Jack Reed and former Gov. Don Carcieri, the co-chair of the Station Fire Memorial Park Leadership Committee, who will provide some opening remarks. The National Anthem will be sung by Aaron Guckian, and Rev. Don Anderson will provide the Invocation. Other speakers include West Warwick Town Council President David Gosselin Jr. and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian. Father Bob Marciano, who was the police chaplain at the time of the fire, will give a tribute to the first responders and Gina Russo, a survivor and President of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation, will formally dedicate the park and read the names of the 100 “Angels.” Joe Silva will perform a musical tribute with an original number called “97 Angels.” Other musical guests are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Parking for the event will be available for free courtesy of MetLife Insurance, which will be located at 700 Quaker Lane in Warwick. Free shuttles will be transporting guests to the park for the ceremony. West Warwick and Warwick Police will be providing details and security, and signs will be out several days before the event letting commuters know which roads will be closed. Coordinators are asking guests to RSVP for free to the event at eventbrite.com by searching for the Station Fire Memorial Park Dedication page.
A lack of a formal ceremony this year did not stop loved ones from coming out to the site earlier this year, which at the time still looked very much like a construction site. Only a few months later, the park is still fenced off but is finally getting the finishing touches before the formal dedication.
Extensive landscaping now covers the park, which was designed to resemble a guitar neck — paying homage to the victims’ love for music. Bright flowers and healthy foliage give it a sense of peace despite the chaotic scene that played out years ago.
“We wanted it to be somewhere beautiful to replace the chaos,” Russo said in February.
There are ten large circles with individual monuments in the shape of speaker boxes around the outside. Each box has a plaque with a name and photo, representing the 100 victims. The walkway includes 500 bricks leading up to the memorial steps will be dedicated to members of the faith community who have provided endless support in the years since the fire, including clergy members who worked with first responders. Father Marciano, who is one of the speakers for the dedication, was among those who helped the local police force to heal in the wake of the tragedy. Anderson, who will also be speaking, has also been part of helping the community heal.
“For me, this dedication will be a remembering of unfathomable loss,” he said. “But also a celebration of the multitude of ways Rhode Islanders stepped forward to care for those impacted by that loss.”
The SFMF hit its $2 million fundraising goal last October but has continued its efforts to fund the ongoing maintenance of the park for years to come. Local businesses, residents and indeed people from every corner of the state contributed and made donations to make the memorial possible. Fundraising Consultant Dan Barry (Daniel R. Barry & Associates) helped to coordinate that fundraising effort and spoke to the resiliency of Rhode Islanders to come together to be part of making the memorial happen.
“It has been wonderful to see how the people of RI joined together to create a park which will bring peace and solace to all,” he said.