ANNIVERSARY OF R.I. NIGHTCLUB FIRE MARKED:
February 21, 2004
WEST WARWICK, R.I. – Families, friends and scarred survivors gathered Friday at the site of a nightclub that burned to the ground one year ago during a rock concert, listening as the names of the 100 people killed in the fire were read aloud.
The service at the site of The Station also included 100 seconds of silence after 11 p.m., about the time a band’s pyrotechnics sent a shower of sparks into the air last Feb. 20, setting fire to flammable foam placed around the stage.
More than 1,000 people attended the service, which ended with the lighting of a 4-foot-tall, plywood heart with lights for each victim. Many of the attendees wore black baseball caps with the words “The Station, Feb. 20, 2003” etched in white letters.
Nancy Noyes, whose face and hands still bear scars from the fire, said she came Friday seeking answers.
“I’m trying to figure out how I got out (of the club) because I don’t remember,” she said. Noyes, who was among more than 200 people injured in the fire, was hoping rescue workers there Friday would recall pulling her to safety.
Visitors streamed to the site throughout the day, kneeling and crying before more than 100 crosses, which together formed a memorial around what once was the nightclub’s perimeter. They brought flowers, balloons, pictures and other mementos to the site.
Carmen Hernandez placed a red candle near the crosses of her aunt and uncle, Ben and Linda Suffoletto, both 43. She said the experience of visiting the place where they died was like walking “in the clouds.”
Several miles away in Cranston, the Most Rev. Robert Mulvee, bishop of the Providence diocese, presided over a Roman Catholic Mass at St. Ann Church.
Anne Gruttadauria, 59, mourned her 33-year-old daughter, Pam, who died in May and was the fire’s last victim.
“It’s like the light went out in my house,” she said.
In December, a grand jury indicted the club’s owners, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, and Dan Biechele, the former tour manager of the band Great White, on involuntary manslaughter charges. All three have pleaded innocent.
Brooke Donald courtesy of Associated Press