A long shadow

On the anniversary of the Station fire    
By BOB GULLA  |  February 20, 2008
PEACE AT LAST? An artist’s sketch of the Station Memorial Park.

The passing time is pulling us further and further away from the Station fire. Those who’d like never to forget must hold on tightly to those difficult memories as the days, weeks, and months roll past. Others want dearly to move on; even those whose lives were irreparably altered on that night want to get past it, and begin another day. We vow never to forget what happened that night, but we want desperately to forge a new start.
Five years ago this week, life changed in Rhode Island. As a people, a culture, Rhode Islanders often hope for the best but fear the worst, and the Station fire confirmed our worst nightmare. See!? Awful things can happen. Awful things did happen. Now we have proof — thoroughly documented, foul-tasting, memory-searing proof.
Five years ago this week, the music landscape in Rhode Island also changed dramatically. Frankly, it’s never recovered. At the time of the fire, the local music scene was already reeling from a series of venue closures. The fire provided another crushing blow. Little by little the scene has strived to return to its senses. Bands are resilient and plentiful; they’ve found new sounds and new places to play. But I can’t help but feel that, even today, five years along, the live music scene is still lodged behind the looming specter of that damn fire, stalled in a blinding cloud of suffocating smoke. How vivid is the recollection that stays with us for this long? Vivid enough to never, ever leave us.
The concert planned for this week at the Dunk is, finally, of the import and stature the tragedy deserves. Past events, though well-meaning, didn’t measure up to the size and scope of that day. Thanks to the efforts of Dee Snider and Tesla’s Troy Luccketta, the artists are finally showing up. It only took five years, and the compassion of a few incredible people.
There was talk this week about the approval of a memorial garden on the site of the fire. There was considerable excitement about the plan — how a garden, rather than a statue or some other visible object, would capture and convey the right depth of feeling a memorial needs. Because the fire is still tied up in litigation and the money hasn’t been raised, the garden is still a long way off. But when we finally get it, perhaps then, as we pad through the park, enjoy the sculptures, and hear the humming bridge with wind-driven Aeolian strings, the searing images of that night will at last soften around the edges.

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