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GREAT WHITE: Weekend Events Planned To Commemorate Third Anniversary Of Nightclub Fire –

The Associated Press has issued the following report:

Families and friends of those who perished in a Feb. 20, 2003 nightclub fire are expected to gather at a memorial service this weekend to remember their loved ones.

The service and a ceremony for a new award that pays tribute to fire victims, survivors and their families are the two major events taking place Sunday to commemorate the third anniversary of The Station nightclub blaze, which killed 100 people, including eight who lived or worked in Connecticut. The blaze, which also injured 200 people, was sparked by pyrotechnics for the rock band GREAT WHITE.

“It’s been three years now,” said Kimberly Jalette, president of The Station Fire Memorial Foundation, which is organizing the memorial service. “As time goes on, people have a tendency to forget.”

“But people who were affected will never forget,” she said.

The foundation was founded in June 2003 to raise money for a memorial to be built at the fire site.

As in the past two years, the memorial service will feature songs selected by family members, the reading of 100 names, observing 100 seconds of silence and the lighting of a heart made out of 100 light bulbs.

This year, the theme of the service will be “Strength in Unity.” Jalette said that by grieving together, taking time to reflect together and moving forward together, survivors and victim’s families can be stronger.

The event comes less than two weeks after former GREAT WHITE tour manager Daniel Biechele, who lit the pyrotechnics that sparked the fire, pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Criminal charges are still pending against club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who have pleaded not guilty. Also pending is a massive lawsuit naming dozens of defendants, including the state of Rhode Island.

The memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. at the site of the fire in West Warwick and will be followed by an awards ceremony in the evening honoring two Rhode Islanders for their participation in the rescue and recovery efforts of the fire.

Gov. Don Carcieri and his wife, Sue, will present the new Hope Awards, a new award meant to recognize those who have displayed acts of courage performed above and beyond their call of duty during a tragedy or an emergency. This year, only those who were involved in the rescue efforts of the Station fire were eligible.

Victoria Eagan, formerly Victoria Potvin, founder of the Station Family Fund, and West Warwick restaurant owner James Paolucci will be the first two recipients of the award.

Eagan was at The Station nightclub the night of the fire and was able to escape, but she lost a friend. Through her grief, she led the effort to establish the Station Family Fire Fund, which has since raised close to $1 million and distributed 95 percent of the money to survivors and victims’ families.

For her work she was selected for the Outstanding Support Toward Recovery award, one of two categories in the awards.

Eagan said she was touched when she first learned she won the award two weeks ago. After opening the mail that day, she said she cried for about 20 minutes.

“I did what I did and continue to do what I do because I care, not because I am looking for any kind of recognition,” Eagan said.

Paolucci was selected for the other category, Outstanding First Responder. He opened up his restaurant, the Cowesett Inn, across the street from the nightclub, to survivors and first responders as the fire broke out that night. He continued to provide first responders with food, beverages and anything they needed as they carried out rescue efforts during the weekend after the fire.

The awards ceremony was scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. in Cranston.

On Monday, the anniversary of the fire, Cox Communications cable channel 70 will broadcast a televised play that was written by Nicholas O’Neill, who was 18 and the youngest victim to die in the fire.

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February 18, 2006 - Posted by | ROCK

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