"It’s the one surprise I have left,” says Jody King.
King was talking about the granite tablet bearing the name and etching of his brother Tracy and eight other Warwick residents who perished in the Station Nightclub fire that killed 100 on Feb. 20, 2003. (A 10th city resident also died that night, but her mother does not feel comfortable having her daughter memorialized until all victims are similarly remembered.)
The tablet is the centerpiece to a memorial park to the Warwick victims and will be installed Friday and uncovered at a dedication ceremony this Saturday at 10 a.m.
But already the park has offered surprises to King, who first envisioned a memorial to Warwick victims more than six years ago. In the last month, often in situations beyond coincidence, strangers have come together to transform the site on busy Veterans Memorial Drive into a quiet place of reflection and reverence.
Bob Ottone is one surprise. Like architect Harvey Wagner, who has been involved with the project since King picked him out of the Yellow Pages, Ottone has been swept into a cause to remember people he never knew but whose deaths had such a profound impact. Ottone lives in Warwick and works for Universal Construction in Johnston. He directed operations at the site as a crew installed an asphalt sidewalk in front of the concrete steps leading to the brick plaza Friday afternoon. D’Ambra Construction donated the asphalt. Ottone and his crew donated their time.
Ottone was back Saturday to help wherever he could. He grabbed a shovel and joined project director Scott Small at filling a wheelbarrow with the fine gravel foundation for the bricks. That was a donation from Cardi Construction. The list goes on; from sod that Jason Hills artfully installed Saturday morning to shrubbery, and the mums placed at the bricks with the names of all 100 victims. Confreda Farms donated the mums.
“This is the way it should be, all of us working together,” Ottone said Saturday morning, as he walked around the memorial.
As he surveyed the work, Clayton DiLello of Clay’s Construction pulled up and offloaded the saw he would use to cut angles needed to complete the brick plaza. It was the finishing touch to work that he, his father and crew members had done earlier in the week.
That night, King was on the phone. He was choked up.
“I’m standing here. The brick is in; the sod is finished.”
There was a silence.
For King, the biggest surprise has been the community outpouring. It is an affirmation not only that people can unite for a common cause, but, most important, that those who died will always be remembered.
People have appeared at the memorial to walk the plaza and photograph the bricks. It’s what King dreamed for.