WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Family and friends of the victims and survivors of the Station Nightclub fire paid tribute to the 100 lives lost on the 15th anniversary of the tragic event.
“The pain never goes away, it’s just a constant thing,” said Richard Rakoski, one of the many people who paid a visit to the memorial park on Tuesday.
Rakoski’s wife Theresa was one of the 100 people who died inside the Station Nightclub back in 2003 when it went up in flames during a concert after pyrotechnics from the performance went haywire.
Rakoski said he was serving in Afghanistan when the fire happened and was rushed back home immediately. Several other of his relatives were also at the club that night and didn’t survive.
“Five family members, consider them my family, tragic for their families too, you know, nothing’s ever been the same,” Rakoski added.
Virtual Tour:Station Fire Memorial Park »
Robert Feeney was inside the club when the fire broke out.
“It’s always going to be a chapter in my life that’s never closed,” he said. “But it’s not the main chapter, it’s not the main focus of my life.”
Along with two of his friends, the fire took the life of his fiancée Donna Mitchell. Ever since the fire, Feeney’s main focus has been to spread awareness about fire safety and ways to prevent these types of tragedies from happening.
Feeney said it was the first time in five years he’s returned the site of the fire, and he was amazed at the newly completed memorial.
“I’m kind of awestruck, it’s just beautiful,” he said.
Before that night, Feeney had never considered a career as a firefighter. Now, he works for the Onset Fire Department.
“It helps me better understand what happened that night,” Feeney said.
Joined Tuesday by dozens of others affected by the tragedy, Feeney spoke about a new incentive in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The incentive allows small business owners to deduct the cost of retrofitting their buildings with fire sprinklers, which the nightclub did not have when the fire broke out.
The memorial park was fully opened in May 2017, meaning this was the first time it was completed for the anniversary of the fire.