Rhode Island club fire remembered 10 years later
WEST WARWICK, R.I. • Survivors and victims' relatives, some in tears, others bearing flowers, gathered in bitter cold and snow Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people and spoke of missing their loved ones and the difficulty of moving past such trauma.
"People that weren't here really don't understand why we can't let this stuff go," said Walter Castle Jr., a survivor who suffered third-degree burns in his lungs, throat and bronchial tubes. "It's just very tough."
The anniversary of the blaze is Wednesday. The fire broke out when pyrotechnics for the rock band Great White ignited flammable packing foam that had been installed in the club as soundproofing.
The Station Fire Memorial Foundation on Sunday released its plans for a memorial, which include a 30-foot-high entrance gate topped by a wind harp. Wind passing through the harp will create music, symbolizing it was music that brought people together at the nightclub.
The permanent memorial will include the name of each person who died and commemorate the survivors, first responders and those who helped care for families of the dead and survivors in the weeks and months after the fire. It will also include a gazebo.
While many of the materials and labor to build the memorial will be donated, foundation officials say they need to raise $1 million to $2 million to build and maintain it.
The foundation hopes to break ground in the spring. Construction of the new memorial could take longer than a year.
Families were asked to remove personal mementos from the site. The items left behind will be buried in a capsule under what is now the parking lot. There will be no digging on the land under where the club once stood because of the fear of disturbing human remains.
The 90-minute ceremony was at the site where the nightclub once stood. Former Gov. Don Carcieri, who took office just a month before the fire, said the tragedy brought out the best in Rhode Islanders.
"At a time of our state's worst tragedy, in some sense, it was our people's finest hour," he said.
Angela Bogart, whose mother, Jude Henault, was killed in the fire, said she has come to appreciate her mother more in the 10 years since she died than earlier when she said they had a difficult relationship. Bogart said she has since given birth to a daughter, which also helps her better understand her own mother.
"When I walk hand-in-hand with my little girl, my mother is holding the other hand," she said.