10 Years After Station Fire, Victims Still in Pain

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Decade since tragic Warwick, RI fire hasn't healed survivors' wounds (Published Friday, Jan 17, 2014)

    (NECN: Josh Brogadir, West Warwick, RI) - It's sad to stand among the memorials now. Many people came through Wednesday night, paying respects to their loved ones, a decade later.

    Many of them lived through the fire.

    What you can't see through the weather-worn crosses and tattered bouquets are the emotional scars of the survivors - wracked with guilt, haunted by that night, 10 years ago.

    "I'm afraid to go to sleep because of the nightmares, because the nightmares have been kicking in something fierce and I'm basically reliving that night," said Walter Castle.

    Castle was in front of the Station Nightclub stage among two dozen friends on February 20, 2003, and, like so many, rushed in desperation to find a way out.

    "I got out the side door where the bouncer was stopping people, and I had to throw him," Castle said. "And he ended up dying and I have that guilt thinking that I killed somebody instead of dragging him out."

    His third-degree internal burns have left him with Stage 4 COPD - and he's not yet 40.

    But it's his ransacked emotions that have not healed 10 years later.

    "When I go to places that have a lot of people, I panic. It takes a lot for me to be able to go in places, just not walking in, I've got to know that place, I've got to know where all the exits are," Castle said.

    You don't have to be from West Warwick, Rhode Island to know the story by heart.

    But it hasn't made it easier for the families of the 100 who perished and the more than 200 hurt when a Great White concert with fireworks, ignited foam, turning a night out with friends to an immeasurable tragedy.

    "(I'm here) to visit my cousin Michael and his wife Sandy. They both died in the fire," said Jay Hoogasian.

    "It's awful, such a waste," said Audra Votolato.

    Those young, smiling faces looking back from the cold ground, in a place that will soon have a permanent memorial, which they broke ceremonial ground on Sunday.

    Even then, it will not be enough.

    "It's still going to be the same to me. And I'm sure if you ask any other survivor or family member who lost somebody, it's still going to be the same. It's just not going to look like you see over here right now, it's going to look a lot nicer," Castle said.

    Organizers still need to raise $2 million for what will become a time capsule of sorts, with these crosses and remembrances included.