Rhode Island remembers fatal nightclub fire

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WEST WARWICK, R.I. -- Survivors of a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people and relatives of those killed huddled together in bitter cold yesterday at the site of the fire to mark its 10th anniversary.

Some brought flowers and paid their respects at handmade crosses for each person who died. Others cried and spoke of missing their loved ones and the difficulty of moving past such trauma.

"People that weren't here really don't understand why we can't let this stuff go. I was 30 seconds away from dying," said Walter Castle Jr., 39, who suffered third-degree burns in his lungs, throat and bronchial tubes. He said he lost many friends and was in counseling until 2009. Recently, he began having nightmares and had to go back into counseling.

The Feb. 20, 2003, fire broke out when pyrotechnics for the rock band Great White ignited flammable packing foam that had been installed in The Station nightclub as soundproofing. Last month, a fire at a nightclub in Brazil killed more than 230 people under similar circumstances.

Among those who spoke yesterday was former Gov. Don Carcieri, who remembered how people in Rhode Island pulled together. "At a time of our state's worst tragedy, in some sense, it was our people's finest hour," he said.

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