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Years in the making, Station memorial park set to open on Sunday

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) -- After years of planning, fundraising and construction, a permanent memorial to the victims of the Station Nightclub Fire will be opened to the public in a dedication ceremony this weekend.

Feb. 20, 2003, is a date etched in the minds of nearly every Rhode Islander. The fire that night in West Warwick claimed the lives of 100 people and left 200 others with injuries.

Since that day nearly a decade and a half ago, survivors and loved ones of the victims haven't had a permanent place to sit and reflect on the tragedy.

Countless people have since volunteered their time and money to help create a memorial park to honor those who were lost.

"If it wasn't for our signatory employers, the good union contractors, this would not have been possible," said Michael Sabitoni, president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council. "So it was a true team effort of the unionized construction industry."

The one-acre site includes granite monuments with the names and birthdays of every victim. There's also a courtyard, a commemorative walkway, and gardens.

They even found a way to incorporate the flowers, crosses, teddy bears and other memorials that have been placed at the site.

"All of the artifacts and the mementos for the loved ones are here on this site, buried in two concrete vaults right at the entrance," Sabitoni said.

The park will be formally dedicated in a ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday.

"I've been involved for four years now," said Kristin Belmore, project engineer at Gilbane Building Co. "I'm just super excited to see everybody's reaction on Sunday, stand in the back of the audience and kind of let everybody take it in."

"Everybody knows somebody that was affected by this," she added, "and I think this just might close a chapter, but will never close the book on what happened here."

Sunday's ceremony will include speeches and songs, as well as a reading of all of the victims' names.

Eyewitness News has learned Cowesett Avenue will be closed from noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Count on Eyewitness News for continuing coverage of the Station Nightclub Fire Memorial dedication. Danielle North will have live reports beginning at 6 a.m. Sunday, and we'll be live-streaming the entire ceremony on WPRI.com.

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