Station Fire Memorial rising from ashes, $2M drive almost completed

Warwick Beacon ·

The site of The Station on Cowesett Road in West Warwick was buzzing with activity this week as crews pushed ahead to build a lasting memorial to the 100 people who lost their lives when the nightclub burned on Feb. 20, 2003.

No longer does the fenced-off site – which for the last several months had the beginnings of a parking lot and nothing more –leave its future as a memorial park up to the imagination. The foundation to the pavilion to the rear of the lot is taking form, and on Tuesday crews were setting forms for the gate entrance as well as the first of 12 circles throughout the site.

Granite benches will be centered in each of the circles. Granite markers bearing the name and an etching of each victim will ring the perimeter of each circle. It’s no coincidence that when viewed from above, the park will bare a striking resemblance to a guitar.

While construction on the park proceeds, the goal to raise $2 million to build and maintain it in the years to come is close to being achieved, Dan Barry of Dan Barry Associates, who is coordinating the fundraising effort, reported Tuesday.

Barry said the faith community portion of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation campaign is in its final phases and he wouldn’t be surprised that it puts them over the top.

“They have been so generous,” he said of the more than 500 churches, synagogues and mosques contacted by the Rev. Donald Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island Council of Churches. Overall, Barry said, the campaign is $14,000 short of the goal.

Response has been terrific since the drive was launched more than one year ago to create a lasting memorial to those who lost their lives in the eighth deadliest public assembly and nightclub fire in the nation’s history. All sectors of the community have stepped forward to help not only with monetary contributions but also in-kind contributions including materials and campaign involvement and project oversight. The Gilbane Building Co. has played a major role, providing the funds to bring Dan Barry aboard and managing the work now in progress.

It is doubtful the park will be fully completed by its dedication on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 1 p.m., but that’s not stopping anyone.

“We’re going ahead,” said Barry, who roughly outlined the event to include remarks from former Gov. Donald Carcieri, who serves as co-chair of the campaign with Gina Russo, a survivor of the fire and president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation.

Among others to speak will be the Rev. Anderson and Father Robert Marciano, who as a chaplain of the Warwick Fire Department was among the first responders to the fire. While plans have not been finalized, Barry also expects there will be musical selections during the dedication. Aaron Guckian will sing the national anthem.

Now that completion of the park is imaginable, Russo said Tuesday, “it’s a little unreal.” She said she has gained an understanding and insight to the state throughout the campaign.

“I’ve seen how the state of Rhode Island can come together,” she said. “No one is forgetting our 100.”

The pressure of a deadline didn’t faze Alan Chianese of HIS Construction. The company was in the process of setting the foundations for the park gate Tuesday morning. Nearby, a three-man crew from SiteTech was outlining the first of the 12 circles. Foreman Jesus Ortiz marked a red stripe with a spray can to form a ring, while Rick Correia secured a measuring tape from the circle’s center.

Ortiz said so many features and elements make the park especially challenging. But he is happy to be working on a project that carries so much meaning to so many.

“It’s going to be close,” he said when told of the dedication date. “We’re doing our best.”

Russo would agree, whether it’s their labor, their monetary contributions or simply encouragement and acknowledgment of the tragic event, many are pulling together to make this memorial park a reality.

“It’s really exciting,” she said.