Station survivor works to make permanent memorial

Gina Russo

The land on which The Station nightclub sat has been donated for a permanent memorial, and one survivor is making it her mission to get it built.

Gina Russo was at the club the night it burned. She lost her fiance, Fred Crisostome.

It is sacred ground for anyone who lost a loved one in the fire. Russo said she still goes to the site three to four times a month.

"It's my few moments. I don't stay long. I talk to Fred, and then I walk around to all the other crosses because they all deserve that respect," Russo said.

But what she sees, she said is a mess.

"Our 100 angels deserve to be honored properly," Russo said.

Russo has made that her mission as president of The Station Fire Memorial Foundation.

For Russo, the 10th anniversary of the fire is a turning point in many ways. One important one is that she and others can now move forward with plans for a permanent memorial at the site.

"There will be a lot of brick, a lot of stone, vegetation that will take care of itself. We're trying to make it as green as possible," Russo said.

The plans were officially unveiled at the 10th anniversary memorial service. The memorial will feature an entryway in the form of a harp, and each of the 100 people will be recognized individually.

"There will be pillars with 100 angels' faces on it, and they will have their own individual is the plan, on top of that with an eternal light, with their pictures, their names," Russo said.

Russo, who has had 54 surgeries since the fire, reflects on the 10 years, and as strange as it may sound, she said she wouldn't change anything -- the friendships she's made or the person she's become.

"Confidence, being strong enough to stand up for myself and speak up if something's not right. Advocating for new burn survivors, making sure that they know that life can be OK," Russo said.

That's the message of a book she wrote after the fire. "From the Ashes" is her journey back, with a message of inspiration.

"It's not easy. There's a lot of bumps in the road, and sometimes you wonder why you're doing it, why you're fighting. But it's so worth it. I'm so glad that I never gave up," Russo said.

And that applies to fighting for The Station fire memorial. After 10 years, no one will argue it's more than long overdue, including this survivor, who said while she will never forget all she lost, she is grateful for all she has.

"This is my life. The Station fire is my life," Russo said. "It was given to me, and I'm going to deal with it the best way I can."