The campaign for a planned memorial at the site of a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people is getting closer to completion, as survivors of the blaze and family members of those killed held a memorial service Sunday to mark the 13th anniversary of the fire on Feb. 20.
Organizers of the memorial at the site of The Station nightclub in West Warwick announced on Sunday that they have now raised $1.6 million of their $2 million goal. Construction has begun on the memorial, and they say workers are on track to complete it by October.
"We are on a mission," said Gina Russo, president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation and a survivor of the fire. "Fingers crossed that it will be done by October and we can celebrate a park instead of an empty space."
The fire was sparked by pyrotechnics for the rock band Great White, which set fire to flammable foam used as soundproofing inside the club. More than 200 people were injured. The lot where the club once stood was turned into a temporary memorial with handmade crosses and other mementoes. That has now been removed while crews work to build a permanent memorial park.
Sunday's ceremony was held at Warwick City Hall and included a reading of the 100 names of those killed, as well as music and other remembrances. Organizers also made an appeal for the families of those killed to send a photo of their loved one that can be etched into a granite marker and placed at the memorial, Russo said.
They also announced a multi-faith fundraising campaign that will involve congregations around the state. The Rhode Island State Council of Churches is working with congregations on the campaign from May 6 to May 15.
Different congregations will take different approaches to raising money, said the group's executive minister, Rev. Don Anderson. Some might hold a special collection one Sunday while others might have their youth group hold a spaghetti supper, he said.
He said he expects at least 150 congregations to participate, and hopes it will be hundreds. The money raised will help to pave a walkway at the memorial with bricks that will contain the names of the congregations that participate.
Anderson said it is important for the state's churches, synagogues and mosques to participate in the effort to memorialize what many have called Rhode Island's 9/11.
"Rhode Island is small enough that we were all touched in one way or another by this tragedy. The whole state was rocked," he said. "We feel that faith was a way in which a lot of people dealt with this tragedy. They found comfort and solace and a way to deal with the horrors of that night."