PROVIDENCE — The generosity of the faithful from across the diocese is helping to make a long-awaited memorial to victims of the Station Nightclub Fire a reality.
With the $2 million project — a park at the site of the February 20, 2003 West Warwick blaze that claimed 100 lives which will be open to the public and include a commemorative walkway, individual monuments to victims and areas for quiet contemplation — about $400,000 short of its goal with construction underway, the Station Fire Memorial Foundation invited all faith communities in Rhode Island and the surrounding area to join in a fundraising effort to remember the victims, many of whom were active members of various houses of worship.
A special collection taken up in May at parishes across the diocese raised $41,221.55 for the Station Fire Memorial. The total includes donations received by 32 parishes, along with a personal donation by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and collective one from the Diocese of Providence representing individual contributions it received for the effort. The parishes, diocese and the Bishop will each receive a brick inscribed with their name in the memorial’s commemorative walkway.
“We were pleased to join with other Rhode Island faith communities in helping to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the memorial,” said Msgr. Albert A. Kenney, diocesan Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia.
“Through second collections, pasta dinners and other means, our parish communities from all across the state came together to help. The February 2003 fire was a tragedy that touched so many lives and is something no one will ever forget.”
Gina Russo was critically injured in the fire with severe burns covering 50 percent of her body, while her then-fiance Fred Crisostomi — a parishioner at St. Matthew Church, Cranston — got separated from her as everyone scrambled to escape the flames that started from a pyrotechnics display as the band Great White played onstage.
Crisostomi did not make it out of the small club that night and perished in the fire.
Russo, who now serves as president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation, is passionate about completing the long-awaited memorial to all the victims of the tragedy, which ranks as the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history.
“I am humbled and honored that so many churches and their congregations cared enough to help raise a significant amount of money that will go towards building the Station Fire Memorial Park that will honor our 100 Angels,” Russo said in a statement to Rhode Island Catholic. “This experience has truly restored my faith that we can all come together when people are in need.”
Former Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri took the oath of office for the first of two terms he served barely a month before the horrific events unfolded at the Station Nightclub.
Today, he and his wife Susan Carcieri serve along with Russo as co-chairs of the campaign to build the Station Fire Memorial.
“The Station Nightclub fire was our state’s worst tragedy,” the Governor and Mrs. Carcieri said in a statement to Rhode Island Catholic.
“In the immediate aftermath of that terrible night, the entire Faith Community was so critical in its ministry to the families whose loved ones were lost or injured. They also ministered to and supported all the first-responders and caregivers who gave so unselfishly.
“It is very gratifying and humbling to see the members of our Catholic parishes contribute so generously toward the completion of the Station Fire Memorial Park. On behalf of all those who will be remembered in the Park, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Dan Barry, fundraising counsel for the project and president of Daniel R. Barry and Associates, recalled how on the morning following that cold February night of the fire all denominations of faithful came together in support of all the victims of the tragedy, and how that assistance continues today.
He noted that more than 500 parishes and congregations — including Catholic, Episcopal and other Christian churches, along with the state’s Jewish and Muslim congregations have joined the fundraising effort to raise the money needed to build a beautiful Station Fire Memorial Park on Cowesett Avenue.
So far, more than $1,775,000 has been raised of the $2 million needed.
“The Diocese of Providence led a historic show of support from the entire R.I. Faith Community,” Barry said. “The $41,221.55 donation raised by the Diocese is a wonderful testament to the support and faith the Bishop, priests and parishioners have to help one another. We are a small state with a big heart.”
He said that this is the first time that all the R.I. congregations are coming together to support a fundraising effort like the Station Fire Memorial Park Campaign. Fundraising for the memorial will continue among the Faith Community through September in an effort to close the $225,000 deficit the project still faces on its road to completion, which is scheduled to be dedicated this fall.
“We ask you to continue to pray for the victims and survivor families and we sincerely thank Bishop Tobin and the people in the Diocese of Providence for their prayers, generosity and financial support,” Barry said.
Other lead Major Gifts from the community include donations from Centreville Bank, R.I. Foundation & United Way of R.I., Gilbane, Laborers International Union of NA, ProJo Legacy Fund, Washington Trust, Amica, Ocean State Job Lot, Charisma Foundation and many other companies, trade unions and individuals.