WEST WARWICK — Despite the ominous weather Friday morning, the sun broke through the clouds shining down on the site of The Station nightclub fire, as members of the fire victims’ memorial foundation announced that after nine years, the land has been donated to them.
Following countless attempts to get in contact with land owner Ray Villanova, the members of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation were able to meet with him and come to an agreement on Monday morning.
Yesterday morning, a land evidence record was filed and a deed was signed by Villanova gifting the land to the foundation.
“These wonderful people literally embraced Mr. Villanova and in doing so they pulled the Villanova family into their circle of healing,” said lawyer Dan McKieran, “They thanked him; they recognized that he had done nothing to start the fire. They thanked him for his good citizenship after the fire and for his good stewardship in this site in the following years, having allowed access to them and their families.”
Members of the board and family and friends in the audience embraced each other with tears in their eyes.
Local resident Angela Gorin explained that many times she would stop by the site with friends, and “to stand here and feel happy is strange; to be here and be crying tears of joy”
President of the foundation Gina Russo explained that she is forever grateful for the generous donation of the Villanova family.
McKieran explained that when Russo publicly shot down the idea of taking the land by eminent domain, Villanova decided it was time to donate the property.
Russo said the foundation wanted an open and trusting relationship with the family; they stood by that and it worked out well for them.
“Our lives forever changed on Feb. 20, 2003. Most of us have made good use of our time, we have stood strong, and we have stayed together,” she said with a smile. “This memorial will be here for a lifetime. My children, their children will keep up this tradition in making sure this property is well maintained. That is our mission and we promise you we will honor 100 people in the best and most beautiful way possible.”
For the full story please purchase the Sept. 29 edition of the Times.