Souls of the departed

Reflections on a dark week
By BOB GULLA  |  October 3, 2006

HEARTACHE: Mourners at the site of the Station.

Last week was an especially dark one for Rhode Islanders and the local music community. On Monday, we received the shocking news about Living Room owner Randy Hien, and on Friday we watched the anguished testimonials at the sentencing of Jeffrey and Michael Derderian. One can only hope that the old maxim of things happening in threes doesn’t apply in this case.

Hien, a victim of a tragic auto accident, was put to rest by the end of the week, and his absence leaves a gaping hole in our music scene. For 30 years he filled Providence with music and gave bands of every stripe plenty of opportunities to prove themselves. As indicated by last week’s poignant farewells, many considered him to be an icon, a mentor, a guru, and a friend.
The same cannot be said for the former club owners of the Station, both of whom are now in an eternal state of disgrace and whose lives will be forever linked to that awful night. Should they both serve jail time? Probably. Should the AG have gone after the town officials of West Warwick? Yes, I think so. They’re as culpable as the Derderians. But the controversial sentencing and botched prosecutions aside, it is best to avoid a trial, if only to spare the many haunted souls who are trying to get past this nightmare. The pain must be unbearable; being dragged forcibly through it again would be unendurable. If it’s hard even to listen to the stories, imagine how hard it must be for the participants in those stories to tell them.

If there’s one problem with avoiding a trial, it’s that it prevents the grief-stricken from full closure. After hearing so many family members speak, it’s clear that they still harbor large reservoirs of bitterness, and that bitterness prevents them from making the long slog through the grieving process. Going through that process is critical for survivors and loved ones to move on with their lives. Many haven’t. You can tell by the feelings they have, the language they use, the painful hatred in their eyes. When they talk about the horror of what they assume happened when the lights when out and the music stopped, they can’t shake the vividly grotesque images. Who can blame them? After three-plus years, these heartbroken survivors aren’t able to heal. The lengthy legal entanglements have not allowed them to. They’re caught in a shamefully protracted political process that does not take into account human suffering.

The ongoing Station nightmare is like a disease the music community will never find a cure for. And every time we get an event like last week’s sentencing, that disease spreads. A trial would be debilitating, digging deeper into an already infected wound.

As time passes, the place in our collective heart for Randy Hien will grow more fond and accommodating, his place in our music scene ever more legendary. Unfortunately, time, which is said to heal all wounds, has not been kind to the families and survivors of the Station.

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