Today 1 year ago we woke and found that 100 people died because of sheer stupidity.

R.I. fire victims and survivors honored at memorial service

By Brooke Donald

CRANSTON, R.I. -- A ceremony held last night to honor the victims and survivors of a deadly nightclub fire in West Warwick was filled with messages of hope and transformation, as Gov. Don Carcieri urged the suffering to find a reason to keep on living.

A bell was tolled 100 times -- once for each person who died in the fire that was sparked by a band's pyrotechnics one year ago at The Station nightclub.

About 20,000 brightly colored butterflies, made by schoolchildren, hung throughout the Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston. Carcieri's office chose butterflies as the theme of the anniversary service -- as a symbol of hope and transformation as the state moves on from the tragedy.

He announced the state and city of Providence would dedicate butterfly gardens at Roger Williams Park Zoo to fire victims, survivors, families and service personnel who responded to the blaze.

"One year ago, Rhode Island was forever changed by The Station fire tragedy. That cold February night brought us all great sorrow and heartache," Carcieri said. "A wave of sadness and disbelief washed over us all."

More than 600 victims' loved ones and fire survivors were expected to attend the ceremony on the eve of the fire's first anniversary.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he realizes the pain of the fire would never go away.

Carcieri's wife, Sue, read a poem called "On the Wings of Hope."

Victims' families brought pictures of their loved ones to display. Many family members hugged and cried as they arrived for the ceremony.

The Rev. Robert Marciano led the service. He's the chaplain for the Warwick fire and police departments, and one of the first to arrive at the scene of the fire.

The fire at the one-story wooden nightclub started on Feb. 20, 2003 when sparks from the 1980s rock band Great White's pyrotechnic display set fire to flammable foam that had been placed around the stage as soundproofing.

The band lost its guitarist, Ty Longley, in the fire. Great White's lead singer, Jack Russell, told the Providence-area rock station WKKB-FM yesterday that he'll spend today honoring those affected.

"I'm going to go to church for the first time in 20 years and light a candle and pray for everyone," he said.

Carcieri said he would continue to pray for the fire's survivors. He told them to go forward, despite the injuries they endure.

"You survived for a reason," he said. "Find it."

Associated Press
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