Head of nightclub fire memorial foundation says opening on track for 2016, about $500K raised



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WARWICK, Rhode Island — The group planning a memorial to 100 people killed in a 2003 nightclub fire has raised one-fourth of the money needed to build and maintain the project, and its leader said Sunday she expects it to open next year.

Gina Russo, a survivor of the fire and president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation, spoke to survivors and victims' family and friends at a memorial ceremony at Warwick City Hall.

"Twelve years of my life has been about this," Russo said. She said she had expected after the fire that the entire process wouldn't take more than two years.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo also attended the event, which had been postponed a month because of a snowstorm.

"This is going to be the year that this is going to happen," Raimondo said. "The work and all the fundraising is going to culminate, and this memorial will become a reality."

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, also the mayor then, said the night of the fire was a moment when communities around the region came together to help the victims, who included people from Connecticut and Massachusetts as well as Rhode Island.

"We want to make sure we harness that same energy again and move forward to make sure that site of tragedy becomes a site of solace, reflection and reconciliation," he said.

Pyrotechnics for the band Great White set fire to flammable foam inside the Station nightclub on Feb. 20, 2003. Besides those killed, more than 200 were injured.

The memorial will be built where the nightclub stood. It will feature a gazebo, an archway reading "Station Fire Memorial Park," and 12 circular shapes in the ground that Russo said will look like CDs, or vinyl records. In each circle, granite monuments in the shape of speaker boxes each will have a portrait etching of a fire victim's face.

Russo said three-phase construction could begin this spring or early summer, and be completed as early as the spring of 2016. She said the foundation has raised $500,000 of the $2 million needed for the project.

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