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The Station Nightclub Fire: 8 Years After the Tragedy

by Franco Cerchiari
Staff Writer

On Feb. 20, 2003, at 11:07 p.m., at The Station Nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in what should have been a night of association with friends, fist-pumping hard rock and a high that can only come from seeing one of your favorite bands live, quickly cascaded into something deadly. Just seconds into Great White’s opening song, “Desert Moon,” a pyrotechnics display turned the festivities into a scene of unimaginable terror as sound insulation surrounding the stage and ceiling caught fire, and the club quickly became engulfed in flames.

Of the 462 in attendance, 100 lost their lives, with hundreds more injured. In their frantic attempt to flee, attendees rationally but sadly made the effort to escape by going out the same door they came in, never giving thought to other exits that were accessible. Subsequent investigations would result in finger pointing, blame, admission of fault, lawsuits, tears, hard feelings and jail time, none of which could take away the unrelenting grief the family members of those killed had to now live with for the rest of their lives.

Call it what you will – hard rock, heavy metal or rock ‘n’ roll – what it is called is of little worth here. What is important is what happens when a group of friends come together for a night of the sheer exuberance that comes from seeing your musical heroes on the lighted stage. From the instant the opening bars of the first song finds its way to your ears to the closing encore, all thought of responsibilities, commitments, deadlines and the drudgery that is the real world is gone.

Through the magic of live music, spectators are transported to a place that if one hasn’t experienced it, trying to put it into words is difficult at best. It is truly a high like no other. Those at a concert connect with one another. No words need to be shared, no thoughts analyzed. The head keeping time with the beat, the imaginary drum sticks pounding the sky, the air guitar that comes to life and a unison of voices all singing along to a favorite song says it all. From the stacks of amplifiers comes a wave of musical emotions that swirls around you and one is literally lost in the moment. It is universal, and the escapism that comes from attending a concert is a thrill beyond words. But when heartbreak occurs when out for nothing more than an evening to forget all, time seems to stop, and it becomes a reason for reflection.

The saying that when a person is taken from this life when doing something they love, their death becomes more memorable may ring true for some, but here those words seem to get lost. Certainly these good people who lost their lives on that eventful night were doing something they loved, but to lose their lives from the actions of others – whether those actions could have been prevented – almost seems to make what happened on that cold Rhode Island night even more sad.

In a mere six minutes the nightclub was ravaged by fire, so for those there, the fear that ensued makes the thought of the horrific sequence of events even more chilling. It is beyond comprehension of what it must have been like. But in the end, 100 of our fellow hard rockers were killed. 100!! And, of course, the next thought that comes is how and why. Some of those questions may be answered and perhaps some may never be.

As the dust settles and after the realism of what occurred sets in, then comes the slow process of healing. So we say to those injured, we hope your recovery was swift. To those who were there and, still to this day, are tormented with thoughts of what transpired, we wish for you peace. To the families who lost so much that night, we offer our shoulders to cry on, a beer lifted to the sky in memory of those who were killed and extend to you our wish that our tears could and would somehow bring back their return. But in the silence of our own lives, we know they can’t. So instead with a hushed reflection we say to those who grieve, “… please know you do not hurt alone, we hurt with you, and we are here for you and will be till the end of time. We may have not been at that concert, but our spirits were. In a sense, we are part of your family, those of us who breathe and live rock ‘n’ roll. While these words may not ease your anguish, we hope you know what your family member’s life means to us.”

For those who don’t understand what it is like to be part of our hard rock/heavy metal family, you will never understand, and, truthfully, we don’t care if you do or not. The reality is that in our existence, there is one thing that is a universal fact – rock ‘n’ roll is a part of our lives, as much as is our heritage or anything else. This month will be the eighth anniversary of The Station Nightclub Fire. Thankfully, time has a unique way of soothing the hurt and giving us strength to pick ourselves up and continue on. And so we do, each day becoming a little easier than the one before.

In closing, we have that day engrained in our memory as one to never to forget, and in tribute of those who were lost, we refuse to let that day go. May they never be forgotten.

Louis S. Alves 33
Kevin P. Anderson 37
Stacie Jude Angers 29
Christopher G. Arruda 30
Eugene Michael Avilez 21
Tina Marie Ayer 33
Karla Jean Bagtaz 41
Mary Helen Baker 32
Thomas A. Barnett 38
Laureen M. Beauchaine 35
Steven Thomas Blom 40
William Christopher Bonardi III 36
Richard A. Cabral Jr. 37
Kristine Marie Carbone 38
William Walter Cartwright 42
Edward B. Corbett III 31
Michael E. Cordier 32
Alfred Carmano Crisostomi 38
Robert J. Croteau 31
Lisa Marie D’Andrea 42
Matthew P. Darby 36
Dina Ann DeMaio 30
Albert Anthony DiBonaventura 18
Christina Ann DiRienzo 37
Kevin J. Dunn 37
Lori K. Durante 40
Edward E. Ervanian 29
Thomas J. Fleming 30
Rachael K. Florio-DePietro 31
Mark A. Fontaine 22
Daniel J. Frederickson 37
Michael A. Fresolo 32
James C. Gahan IV 21
Melvin A. Gerfin Jr. 46
Laura Gillett 32
Charline Elaine Gingras-Fick 35
Michael James Gonsalves 40
James F. Gooden Jr. 37
Derek John Gray 22
Skott C. Greene 35
Scott S. Griffith 41
Pamela A. Gruttadauria 33
Bonnie L. Hamelin 27
Jude Henault 37
Andrew R. Hoban 22
Abbie Lea Hoisington 28
Michael B. Hoogasian 31
Sandy Hoogasian 27
Carlton L. “Bud” Howorth III 39
Eric James Hyer 32
Derek Brian Johnson 32
Lisa Kelley 27
Tracy F. King 29
Michael Joseph Kulz 46
Keith R. Lapierre 21
Dale Lawrence Latulippe 23
Stephen M. Libera 31
John Michael Longiaru 28
Ty C. Longley 34
Andrea L. Mancini 39
Keith Anthony Mancini 37
Steven Mancini 27
Judith Irene Manzo 33
Thomas Frank Marion Jr. 29
Jeffrey W. Martin 37
Tammy Mattera-Housa 40
Kristen Leigh McQuarrie 37
Thomas P. Medeiros 29
Samuel J. Miceli Jr. 21
Donna Marie Mitchell 31
Leigh Ann Moreau 38
Ryan M. Morin 33
Jason R. Morton 26
Elizabeth Ellen Mosczynski 18
Katherine O’Donnell 33
Nicholas Philip O’Neill 38
Matthew James Pickett 34
Carlos L. Pimentel Sr. 32
Christopher Prouty 30
Jeffrey Scott Rader 29
Theresa Lynn (Serpa) Rakoski 40
Robert Louis Reisner III 46
Walter Rich 33
Donald Paul Roderiques 35
Tracey L. Romanoff 25
Joseph E. Rossi 24
Bridget M. Sanetti 39
Rebecca Elinor Shaw 36
Mitchell C. Shubert 39
Dennis Joseph Smith 43
Victor Lowell Stark 43
Benjamin Joseph Suffoletto Jr. 28
Linda Dee Suffoletto 25
Shawn Patrick Sweet 37
Jason R. Sylvester 40
Sarah Jane Telgarsky 30
Kelly Lynn Vieira 30
Kevin R. Washburn 29
Everett Thomas Woodmansee III 29
Robert Daniel Young 30

Station Family Fund

Station Fire Memorial Foundation


4 Comments on The Station Nightclub Fire: 8 Years After the Tragedy

  1. Wendy Marion-Pacheco // February 15, 2012 at 9:52 pm //

    My brother, Thomas Marion, was killed in the fire that night. He was 27 not 29. Not a single day goes by that I wouldn’t give everything to just see him one more time

  2. john fairbairn // February 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm //

    as a survivor I must say that was the most beautiful article ever writing about had true meaning behind it that came out and touched me where I started to cry. your amazing alot of times i think about the fire but don’t cry because I got lucky,my friend put it to me someone put alot of thought into this one and his was right.thank you for that you rock

  3. Remembering Lisa Kelly & Judy Manzo!
    Two beautiful & wonderful single moms!

  4. Jane Goron // February 14, 2011 at 7:35 am //

    It seems like yesterday. And when you go to the memorials, it feels like time has just stopped for the families of those lost that night. All anyone can do is wish them peace and healing – and that each day be a little better than the one before it. May those who lost their lives that night be at peace – may those who were injured there – whose lives will never be the same – continue to heal in all ways – so that they can look into the sunlight and believe that things will be ok – and can look at themselves and see the same person that they were before that night. May those who made it out without injury – some forced to leave a loved one behind – find forgiveness in their heart – for themselves – May all be able to find forgiveness somehow for those labeled responsible for this tragedy. And may those of us on the outside – look in with love and compassion – and realize that, but for a twist of fate, we or someone we loved could have been there that night – may we all remember every day to cherish those who are close to us – to respect those that are strangers to us – and to live our lives to the fullest every day – because you never know when your last moment will come – or when a moment in time will change your life forever.

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