SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 20, 2012

RI nightclub fire memorial breaks ground

MICHELLE R. SMITH
Associated Press

---- — WARWICK, R.I. — Workers broke ground yesterday on a memorial in Warwick to honor the 100 people killed in a 2003 nightclub fire, even as families of the victims expressed hope they could work together to eventually have a permanent memorial built at the site of the fire in neighboring West Warwick.

The memorial is being built specifically to honor the 10 residents of Warwick who perished in the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze at The Station nightclub, which was sparked by pyrotechnics for the rock band Great White. Jody King, whose brother, Tracy King, was killed in the fire, was the driving force behind the memorial and said it will also pay tribute to all 100 people who died.

"It is my hope that this memorial brings peace to all as we honor those who no longer stand with us," King said.

Some relatives of those killed have expressed concern in recent days that the Warwick memorial will direct attention away from building a memorial at the site of the fire. A makeshift memorial with homemade crosses, photos of victims and flowers has been maintained on the land since shortly after the blaze.

The Station Memorial Foundation has been working for years to buy or have the land donated, but to no avail. Representatives of the foundation say the owner of the land has not responded to dozens of requests, and the family that owns the land has not responded to messages left seeking comment.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee and House Speaker Gordon Fox said Tuesday they are looking into whether the state can seize the land by eminent domain so that a memorial can be built there.

King and others who attended yesterday's groundbreaking said they still hope to build a memorial at the West Warwick site, but the Warwick memorial also can serve as a healing place for reflection away from the site of the horrific fire.

Barbara Kulz of Warwick, whose son, Michael, was killed, said she sometimes visits the site of the fire and drives by it frequently, but the Warwick memorial will serve as a special and pleasant place to visit.

"I don't have that sad feeling I have at the other one. It's something nice, something pretty," she said.

Evelyn King, the widow of Tracy King, said she does not visit the site of the fire because of the tragedy. She said she wants to see a memorial built there, but appreciates the one in Warwick while the issues with the ownership of the land are worked out.

"It's a nice tribute to the residents of Warwick," she said.