WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – It’s often said that it’s impossible to forget where you were and what you were doing when tragic events such as 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination occurred. For Rhode Islanders, the same can be said for the Station Nightclub Fire, where 100 people died and more than 200 were injured.
Fifteen years ago, on February 20, 2003, Gina Russo and her fiance Freddy Crisostomi were at the Station Nightclub when the fire broke out. Russo was able to escape, though severely burned. Crisostomi did not survive.
“15 years it’s a long time,” Russo said of the anniversary. “But it does feel like yesterday.”
Since that night, Russo has sought healing and closure.
Virtual Tour:Station Fire Memorial Park »
“I am a survivor, I spent about 4 months in hospitals in Boston and burned over 40% of my body,” Russo said. “I lost a fiance that night, but he is still very much with me.”
Russo has made it her mission to honor her fiance and all the other lives lost, spearheading the campaign for the Station Nightclub Memorial Park, which was dedicated in May of 2017.
“The reason for me wanting to get involved with this was to make sure that he and the 99 others were remembered,” Russo said. “There was no way they could ever be forgotten.”
The land the club once stood on was acquired by the Station Memorial Foundation in 2012. Once the site was secured, the foundation had to decide the best way to memorialize and honor the lives lost as well as analyze building costs.
It was decided that the park would feature speaker box-shaped memorial stones for each victim of the fire as well as a story wall displaying the timeline of the fire. The hope is to educate visitors and inspire fire prevention.
Russo says the memorial has become a place of peace and healing for her, somewhere she can seek solace.
“For me it’s brought peace into my life as much as I can have,” she said. “When I’m having a really rough day, this is where I come, there is something about being in this place for me that is not tragic anymore, now we have this beautiful park to remember our 100.”
The park is open to the public at all hours, but visitors are asked to be respectful and refrain from bringing candles or open flames to the memorial stones.
A public event will be held at the memorial site on Tuesday at 2p.m. where fire officials and other service leaders will join survivors in introducing a new federal tax incentive program for small business owners to refit buildings with fire sprinklers.
The 15th anniversary observance ceremony has been rescheduled for May 20th at 1p.m.