Gina Russo of Cranston, R.I. is a survivor of the Station nightclub fire and president of The Station Fire Memorial Foundation. She spoke with the Globe about Jefferey and Michael Derderian, the co-owners of the Station nightclub, and their decision to finally discuss the deadly fire that killed more than 100 people and injured 200 others in 2003.
Why did the Station nightclub owners wait 18 and a half years to come forward with their story? We’ve been trying to move forward.
Although I’m in a great place in my life, other survivors, family members, and friends continue to struggle with guilt and trauma. Being aware of the event’s emotional impact, and how it’s still here, is important to help people heal. In Scott James’ book “Trial by Fire,” I’m featured alongside the nightclub owners, who contributed heavily to the research and explained their perspectives. The “48 Hour” interview (which aired on Oct. 23) revealed nothing new.
It’s a tough situation. Everyone has the right to tell their story but blame, whether toward the owners or bouncer, is hard to let go.
My personal process of recovery took more than six years and healing, even longer. It began when I released myself from being a “victim,” started sharing my story, and supporting other survivors. It began when I realized that our loved ones who passed away, those 100, would not want us to be stuck in the past.
It hurts me to know that there are people who don’t believe they deserve a better quality of life because they survived the fire, people who feel retraumatized in the moment. To them, I want to say that you can rise above anything. There is nothing so bad in this world that you can’t find your way out of. Life will not be perfect afterward, but surround yourself with good people, find friendships that mean something, and accept that it’ll be difficult, extremely difficult, but it’ll be OK.
You need to mourn the person you were and love the person you are becoming.