WEST WARWICK, R.I. — A memorial to mark the site of a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people is nearing completion, and organizers say they have raised more than $1.9 million out of the $2 million needed to build and maintain it in perpetuity.
The memorial park is expected to be finished in October, bringing to fruition a project that has been years in the making, said Gina Russo, president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation.
Russo was severely burned in the blaze and lost her fiance, Fred Crisostomi.
Russo said the support for the memorial has been overwhelming from the Rhode Island community, industries including banking and construction, as well as the faith community.
“I’m ready. You’re never going to get over it, but to close this chapter, to say I’ve done everything humanly possible to honor everyone,” Russo said.
The Feb. 20, 2003, fire started when pyrotechnics for the rock band Great White set fire to foam that lined the inside of the club. More than 200 people were injured.
Within days of the fire, survivors and officials said they wanted a permanent memorial on the land where The Station once stood.
A temporary memorial sprang up at the site, with homemade crosses and mementos dotting the land. In 2012, after years of wrangling, the foundation secured the site from the family that owned the land. At that time, the foundation had just over $100,000 in the bank.
The site was cleared and closed in 2013 when crews began work.
Since then, the foundation brought on fundraiser Daniel Barry, and has worked with former Gov. Don Carceri and his wife, Sue, to raise the money. They have also received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of in-kind donations, such as labor and materials, from local companies.
Most recently, Ocean State Job Lot raised more than $47,000 from shoppers in its stores, and houses of worship across the state raised tens of thousands of dollars, Barry said. Parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence raised more than $41,000.
Msgr. Albert A. Kenney of the diocese said they did it through pasta dinners, second collections and other means.
“The February 2003 fire was a tragedy that touched so many lives and is something no one will ever forget,” he said.
Today, weeds and dirt cover most of the site, but Barry and Russo say nearly all the work that needs to be done is finished. Each person killed in the fire will have an individual granite monument, and about half of those are completed, they said. The rest are expected to be done in the coming weeks.
Then, crews will assemble the pieces offsite and bring them in to install them, Barry said. Russo expects everything to be in place for opening by early to mid-October.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to it being over, to be honest.”