Printed on: February 18, 2013

R.I. fire remembered in snowy outdoor ceremony

Associated Press

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.

During the ceremony, the names of the dead were to be read aloud and Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Gov. Don Carcieri planned to make remarks. The Station Fire Memorial Foundation was to unveil its final plans to build a permanent memorial at the site where a makeshift memorial that includes handmade crosses, photos and mementos of the dead now sits.

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.

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.

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.

William Ferrara, who lost friends in the fire, attended the memorial service.

"Every day you just miss those who aren't here," he said.