People arrived in groups, as couples, and individually to remember and celebrate the lives of the 100 people killed in The Station nightclub fire at the ninth anniversary memorial service on Sunday afternoon.
Almost 200 people filed in to the site at the corner of Cowesett Avenue and Kulas Road. Some greeted each other with smiles and "hello"s. Others walked straight to the memorial marker erected for their loved one and stood silently. Each person showed their emotions differently – some laughed while others cried; some talked and others stood silent; and some found comfort in the embrace of another. The one thing they had in common was this was the 9th anniversary and it was the ninth time they gathered together to remember.
The service began with the welcome by Station Fire Memorial Foundation Director Lisa Del Sesto Zanfagna. In the introduction Zanfagna said along with those that were lost and injured in the fire, the rescuers, firefighters, nurses, and medical personnel cannot and will not be forgotten.
During the invocation Rev. Dr. Don Anderson, Executive Minister for the RI State Council of Churches said, “I never understood community until we came together that night. This tragedy made us one.”
He said it was appropriate year after year to remember not only those lost that night but those that were touched by that night.
“There is a profound sense of loss. Even with the passing of time, our grief is great,” said Anderson. “Help us find solace in the joy they brought to us and give thanks to those that stood and stand beside us.”
The memorial service included the reading of the 100 names of those lost followed by 100 seconds of silence.
Station Fire Memorial Foundation Vice President Victoria Eagan said, “People realize that is it nine years later chronologically but we don’t need to gather here every year to remember. It is in our hearts every day.”
Holly Cekala, of Warwick, and Heidi Hartsell, of Coventry, arrived at the memorial service together. They were there to support a friend and remember another, Edward “Eddie” Corbett III.
“We came together to remember and support our friend,” said Hartsell. “We miss Eddie and wanted to pay our respects.”
Cekala said the families need some closure and a permanent memorial would help. “We’re here to support the families because they still have no answers how their loved ones will be memorialized.”
Eagan said the memorial foundation board of directors hope to move forward with open communication with the land owner in an effort to have a permanent memorial at the site.
“He allows us to have a service every year graciously. He has not put a fence up or bulldozed the memorials that are here. He is generous and pays the taxes on the property,” she said. “We appreciate it and hope he will allow this to continue.”
Dawn Leaman, of West Warwick, said she attends the service each year to celebrate the lives of those that were lost in the fire. “I absolutely would like to see a memorial,” she said.
Shannon Kinnel, of Johnston, has attended each of the nine memorial services. Her cousin, Leigh Moreau, was 21 when she lost her life the night of fire. Tears filled Kinnel’s eyes as she spoke of her cousin. She said if a memorial is created, “this is one of the only places it can be.”