Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore Inner Harbor 2001
~By Wendy Zangari (Weinberg)
Today is actually the 10 year anniversary of the Station nightclub fire. When this happened 10 years ago my life fell apart, my world was shattered. I have since picked up the pieces and have moved on in my life, but at the time there was no hope inside of me as my life had just been torn right from underneath me and I had no way of knowing that I would survive the devastation of the loss of my fiance at the time.
Yesterday, being so close to the date of the 10th anniversary of the station fire, Greg and I decided to dedicate the show to the memory of Matty and we would like to extend that dedication to all of those that lost their lives, or were seriously injured, and to the families of those victims of the Station nightclub fire. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=IU8JdSVeG7w (We had a moment of silence at the start of the show and discussed Matt at about 45:00 minutes into the program as well as the last few seconds before the credits)
100 victims that lost their lives that night.
Scott and Dana’s wedding 7 July 2001
I was awoken by a phone call on 20 Feb 2003 at 11:15 or so that evening and was told to turn on the news. When the newscaster spoke in front of the flaming building I knew that Matt didn’t make it, but however was still hopeful. That moment I was screaming and crying, called my mother and she was unable to hear anything about this event due to the fact that the news had not gotten to Massachusetts news stations, but Matt and I lived on the border of Rhode Island so that we did in fact get the news from this tragic event. I was devastated and heartbroken.
At around 2AM I got a call from a friend that asked what he could do and if he could take me to Rhode Island to where the families of the victims were located. I went with him and waited all day, until around 9PM on the 21st of February, no sign of Matt’s name being called as one of the survivors, as they were yelling the names of who survived over the loud speaker.
That whole day, all I had was coffee. They even had free food as well as free cellphones (providers came to give out free cell phones as folks phones were not holding up to all of the phone calls they were receiving and making.) I was frantic, waiting, watching burn victims walk in with blank stares, watching families scream and cry in hysterics that their children, their friends, their parents, their loved ones, perished or were not found at all in the rubble of the fire. I cried, I witnessed and felt pain for others as well as myself. It was a hard day for all involved.
I waited for Matt’s name to be called, I waited and waited after filing a missing persons report and watching the pain and anguish all around me. My heart was raised when they called out our friends name that was still alive, but left there with despair because they didn’t find Matt and never called his name.
That next morning many news crews were parked in front of my home, they wanted to interview me for a piece for the Providence Journal as well as the Boston Globe and one other news company. I told our story over and over again as it seemed to ring in my ears, I could not see anything else but what I was saying over and over again like a broken record. I was tired, I had not slept, I wanted Matt and yet I got news casters getting my story, a couple of them even sensationalizing my dread. How awful that some of them made me feel as they scraped at the last bits of me.
It took three years for Matt Pickett to ask Wendy Weinberg on a date and another three to propose marriage, but he was worth the wait, she says.
“He was my soul mate. He was the most fantastic person I have ever known in my entire life.”
The two met seven years ago at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and had been dating for three years when they found a split-level house in Bellingham, Mass. Wendy said she didn’t want to close the deal on the house until they were at least engaged.
He proposed last June 30, her 30th birthday, on the Echo Bridge over the Charles River in Newton, where they grew up. They closed on the Bellingham house the next day.
Wendy said her fiancé collected everything — newspapers, tapes, CDs, records — which he shared with his hundreds, if not thousands, of friends all over the world. “He had not one enemy, ever,” she says.
He went to The Station with his friend Joe Cristina, who survived the fire but suffered second-degree burns, Wendy said.
Matt loved music; it “made his heart soar,” she says.
Matt was a giver, she said, who would drop everything to help a friend.
“He gave so much of himself, even if he had nothing.”
Wendy said her fiancé had just celebrated his seventh year of sobriety.
“He and I were each other’s support systems. He gave me hope, he gave me strength, he told me about life.”
Most of all, she said, “He was my best friend. My very best friend.”
She already had her dress for their wedding. It was to be held Oct. 19.
— Katherine Boas, Providence Journal staff
Matthew James Pickett
Matthew Pickett’s passion for music was legendary. In a single year, the avid heavy metal fan attended more concerts than most people would in a lifetime. He cultivated another generation of music lovers in his family by taking nephews and nieces to their first rock concerts. Pickett, 33, often set up recording equipment to capture a show, as he did before the Great White concert last Thursday.
“Matt collected concert recordings from shows all around the world and could probably tell you all of the songs a band would play at a concert before the band had a chance to perform them,” Ben Moebes, a longtime friend, said of Matty, as Pickett was known to his wide circle of friends.
Moebes fondly remembered a summer that he and Pickett spent playing around Echo Bridge in Newton Upper Falls, which became a special place for Pickett. It was there that he proposed to his fiancee, Wendy Weinberg, last year. The two had recently bought a home and were to be married in October. Members of Pickett’s close-knit family spoke of his love for Weinberg and also how they treasured his warmth and sense of humor. The baby of the family was described as “the consummate family man,” who was always there to offer love and support.
“All my brothers looked out for me and loved me with all their hearts, but Matthew kept a special eye on me,” said Dorothy Pickett, his only sister.
Pickett grew up in Newton and graduated from Newton South High School before going on to the University of Massachusetts-Boston. In addition to his love for music and sports, Pickett was well-traveled and spoke French and Spanish.
“I’ll continue to live my life but from here on out I’ll do it a little better, think a little harder, take one more step further and love with all of my heart,” said Dorothy Pickett. “That’s what Matthew would do.”
That weekend I didn’t sleep much, if at all, I took Valium the next Monday evening, 4 days after the fire, and that put me to sleep for about 3 hours until the doorbell rang, it was the police. At 11PM EST on Monday 24 Feb 2003 I was handed a piece of paper from the police stating that Matt was in fact dead, he was unrecognizable, but identified with dental records. I cried and cried and cried. It was real now, he was officially gone, my life was no longer planned, I wouldn’t be getting married that October 19th and my wedding dress had to be returned by my sister, as I couldn’t face it. All plans had to be cancelled for that date. The only thing we hadn’t done is send out invitations, everything else was arranged. My heart sank, my world crumbled.
Two weeks after the fire Matt’s family sued me for my home, the belongings within it and all that Matt and I had possessed. I was heart broken and devastated as it was, but then to receive this as a slap in the face of the family I was marrying into, was even harder. I don’t think I told many people about that, but Greg was with me during the time where they received Matt’s things that belonged to them, rightfully so, but unfortunately was dragged out due to them hiring a lawyer to get everything I owned in their possession. I knew that they were acting out on their pain, but I didn’t know it would be so vicious towards me. Even so, I persevered and made it through all of that as well.
Matt’s family did not know Matt as well as they said they did, we had lived together for almost 4 and a half years and they never came to see our apartment in the 3 years we lived there. They came to see our home due to the fact that we were engaged, but were not happy we were living together prior to marriage as they were very old fashioned in that manner. They also did not like the fact that I was Jewish, that posed another issue on their plate as we were not allowed to get married in the Catholic Church and his parents stated they would not come to our wedding, which devastated Matt, but we accepted this fact. The lawsuit lasted well over a year and a half and they got all of the items I wanted to give to them and nothing more, not even my house due to rights of survivorship. This is how it was to be and they had to accept this, but they did not. They wanted to see me buried in rubble, just like Matt, and that hurt, that hurt A LOT! I was to be their daughter-in-law, but they did not see it this way. I was in more pain. This is part of the story very few people know.
Matty bootlegged the Great White show as he did thousands of times at many shows, to capture the essence of the music, to share his journey in music with other music fans, trading DAT tapes (not selling) all over the world near and far. They recovered the tape and made a copy for the family, but they will not share this with me and refuse to speak to me, therefore I have not listened to Matt’s and many other people’s last moments, it is something I think I need to hear for some closure, but is that ever really possible when something like this so tragically happens? Who knows? All I know is that it is out there and only a few have listened to it and only three sets of people have this tape, FBI, Matt’s family, and Joe (my friend that survived the fire) got to listen to it, but I am not sure if he has the tape. Either way, this is something that was his passion and he wanted to capture each and every moment that music brought him joy!
After this had happened, I had to write a letter to all of Matty’s friends, which were in the thousands, I wrote as follows:
” I had enough strength to get on Matt’s computer and email all of you, I know that all of you were so close to him, he loved you all! Matt did not make it out of the fire on Thursday, I need to let all of you know because he had so many friends, some I didn’t even know. He was and is in all of our hearts, he is in our prayers and he is loved by all! My fiance was a spectacular human being, I know that he would want us all to remember all of the fun and good times that we had with him. He would want us to remember the laughter, the joy, the concerts, the music. This was his passion and he died enjoying doing what he did best! God, I can’t believe that I am clear minded enough to write this, I do believe that Matty is guiding my hands as I write this. So he lives within me and he lives within all of us. He wants all of you to know that you were special to him and he carried all of you in his hearts. At this time we have not yet found his remains, as they are still searching. When the time comes that we find his remains, there will be a funeral service in Needham, I am not sure of the name of the Cemetary, but it is right off of Central Ave. I don’t know what else to say, I knew that I needed to be calm and write this to all of you who knew him and knew him well. Don’t ask how I wrote this, but Matty is here now with me and he is giving me the strength.I love you all just like Matty did!Love, Wendy Weinberg (His one true love and his lifetime companion)”
I lost this email over time and Greg found it here, it is a site about sharing music and there was a discussion about Matty. http://ontourwiththegovner.blogspot.com/2010/11/if-you-tape-and-dont-share-it-does-it.html
As time went on and I was dealing with quite a bit and most friends and family went back to their lives, I sat there in despair wondering what will come of my life and not knowing, which was the scariest part. I was at an impasse in life and I was lost. That whole year I got support from friends and family, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today without them. They got me through some hard times and they stuck by all of my craziness throughout all of these years and for that I am grateful! So thank you! Also thank you to “The Station Family Fund” (Victoria Potvin Founder/President and victim of loss as well as a survivor) for helping me financially as well and putting efforts into assisting all of the victims families that perished and those that need help going forward. Also thank you to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from KISS, for sending me memorabilia dedicated to Matty and thank you to Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, for signing the picture of you and Matty and I am so glad I had an extra one just for you! You all are very beautiful people!
My work had a bake sale to raise money for me, while I was taking two weeks off after the tragedy, to be able to afford my mortgage and bills, they raised $15,000 or thereof and people were paying $20 or more a cookie. I was touched. The company I was working for matched it and helped me to not have to worry about the house we just bought 7 months prior. They had a big poster of Matt and I on the wall in the break room to remember him by and I was touched once again, I was more than touched, I felt the out-pouring of love. It also got me through. I received all of this when I got back to work 2 weeks after the incident and it couldn’t have happened at a better time because Matt just lost his job weeks prior.
Just two weeks after he was killed I got a phone call from an insurance company, Matt had Life Insurance and I was the beneficiary. It was something I didn’t even know he had done. Thank God he did this because it allowed me to stay in the house for almost a year and a half before I was forced to sell it.
Six months after the company did this for me, I was laid off after 3 years of working for them in their Information Technology Department as their Desktop Technician. Reason is that they had hired 4 people to replace me as I went on short-term disability that summer, to get my head on straight. When I got back to work, I was working my 40 hours a week and only my 40, this was not typical of me as I was working 80 or so hours a week prior to Matt’s death. So this posed a problem with the company and I even had to sign an Affidavit stating that I would not sue them for falsely letting me go.
Either way, I wouldn’t have met Greg that next year and I wouldn’t have started a new life, in a new state, in a new world from what I was used to.
In just one year I was able to pick myself up and move on from depression, anxiety, and angst. I met Greg 15 months after the tragedy happened, unexpectedly due to the fact that neither of us were looking for relationships as both of us had had some tragedy in our lives. We connected and grew our relationship into what it is today, filled with love, honor, cherishing each other, and being there for one another always! I never thought I would meet someone as wonderful as Matt, but here I am with yet another love of my life. I was lucky to have found true love twice, most people don’t find it in one lifetime!
This time in my life when I was at my deepest darkest point, I grew from it, I learned from it and I joined forces with where ever my life took me as I was now at it’s mercy. The lesson in tragedy is learning on how to cope, how to constructively get out of your own way when things don’t go your way. I could have gone down a different path and been very destructive to myself and others because of my internal pain, but I chose to be happy and this was the way the universe was going to do it for me even with a lot of cards against me at the time.
About 6 months after the tragedy, I received a picture of one of the victims that had died in this fire, I was told by the person that gave this to me, that they did not think that the family would want to see something like this of their son. I took time to think about this and about a month later I contacted the Tesla Roadie group he was associated with and showed them the picture, they then shared this with the family as it was easier to have someone you know present this kind of thing to family. They were grateful to have a picture of their son who was a roadie for Tesla as well as Great White since the 90’s, it was his last moment on earth and they cherished the moment, however so sad in the way it had occurred. I enriched their lives even through tragedy. This photo was taken right before Joe dropped his camera and Matt said “Joe take a picture”, here is the photo before Joe dropped on the floor to get his camera and stayed there covering his mouth looking for a window to exit.
This is a video as the fire broke out and how long it took to get engulfed, please mute your speakers as the screams are horrifying, but you must see this in order to understand the severity of the fire:
Copyright by WPRI TV Station News
So regardless of my steep path in life, I still feel blessed. We should count all of our blessings, not our misfortunes.
A memorial was set up for the victims that were lost in this tragic fire. Here is the before and after of what I made, and how it deteriorated after 5 years. Then my friend made a new one for him and sent me the picture. I love him for taking the time to make it look like Eddie Van Halen’s Schecter guitar. Thank you Brendan.
The rest of the memorial back in 2003.
And what it looks like today. Taken 3 days ago.
A permanent memorial site is going to be built for the victims loved ones to remember them by, soon, please get the updated information here: http://www.wpri.com/dpp/news/local_news/plans-unveiled-for-station-memorial.
Boston Globe wrote a piece about the site and what will happen to all of the crosses and memorabilia as well as honoring the victims and their families. http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/02/18/station-fire-survivors-and-relatives-victims-gather-west-warwick-scene-amid-bitter-cold/KQ47A9FuR2a1Ei5aTPFPXP/story.html
INFORMATION ON A NEW BOOK ABOUT THE STATION FIRE:
On February 20, 2003, in the few minutes it takes to play a hard-rock standard, the fate of 462 unsuspecting nightclub patrons was determined with awful certainty. That night, the fourth-deadliest club fire in U.S. history occurred at a roadhouse in West Warwick, Rhode Island, called “The Station.” The blaze was ignited when pyrotechnics set off by Great White, an 80’s heavy-metal band, lit flammable polyurethane “egg-crate” foam sound insulation on the club’s walls. In less than five minutes, 96 people were burned alive and 200 more were injured, many catastrophically. The final death toll topped out, three months later, at the eerily unlikely round number of 100.
The story of the fire, its causes, and its legal and human-tragedy aftermath, is one of human lives put at risk by petty economic decisions – by a band, club owners, promoters, building inspectors and product manufacturers. Any one of those decisions could have potentially avoided the tragedy. Together, however, they formed a fatal critical mass.
The course of obtaining legal redress, both criminal and civil, was similarly shaped by economics generally unknown to the public. The imperfections of the criminal justice system and the arcane calculus of the tort system gave rise to outcomes which, to some victims, were as troubling as the fire itself. The tragedy was a stark example of what happens when cupidity and stupidity trump concern for human life.
RIVETING NEW WEB SERIES ON THE STATION FIRE:
PERSONAL MESSAGE TO THE VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES:
Matty, my late fiance, is all around me all of the time, he shows me my path and just as he was my angel on earth, he is my angel in heaven now. Your loved ones are with you, they sit beside you, they watch over you, they push you along and give you the strength to carry on. They are not lost and are still with you! I feel that you are a soul with a body, not a body with a soul, therefore we carry on in spirit. They will guide you in your words, they will guide your hands, they will guide your thoughts to be of purity. They are here with all of us and never leave you! May all of you live with love in your heart and not despair, your loved ones would want you to carry on their legacy and carry you in the music of their hearts.
All my love,
Wendy Zangari (Weinberg)
These videos are dedicated to all of the victims and their families (both videos were made by others).
SOME FRIENDS AND FAMILIES COMMENTS:
I lost my cousin Matthew James Pickett in the Station Nightclub fire on February 20,2003.When I woke up this morning and realized that it had been one year,it hit me again just like it did then.Matthew was a great guy and a wonderful person.I will always remember the times we had together.I want to tell Matthew’s parents John and Mary Pickett,you raised a wonderful loving son and all around great person.And you should be proud of him.I also hope the rest of Matthew’s brothers and sister see this and know that I loved him and will never forget him
David Chahrouri (Dallas, GA)
February 20, 2004
My heart goes out to all who were changed by this horrible fire. Matty Pickett, you were an amazing man. You are loved and remembered……
Deanna D (Ayer, MA)
February 17, 2004
My baby brother, Matthew James Pickett, went to Heaven on the 20th of February, 2003. His family and friends will never forget him and will always remember him as the greatest and we all look foward to being reunited with him when the Lord Jesus calls us. Till then Matty, we love you! Thank you for loving us so sweetly! We miss you and forever on earth our tears will cry till we see you later. Amen
Joe Pickett (Kingston, MA)
March 20, 2003
I wanted to express my sincere condolences and prayers to all families and friends of victims lost or hospitalized from this tragic nightclub disaster.
I just found out last night that one of my best friends from high school, Matthew J Pickett, had perished in the West Warwick fire. Although we grew apart after high school and hadn’t spoken in over ten years, our memories of growing up together still remain close to my heart. In fact, over the past two weeks, I recently have recalled several of our specific high school memories(listening to music,playing sports,etc.) without even knowing that he was one of the victims. Before this, I had not thought of Matt in many years. Coincidence? – I doubt it. What I will draw from this however, is to confirm that he is now with safe with God – as he and all the other innocent victims of this horrific tragedy are as well.
Matt was and is indeed a great person. In the many years I knew him, I never saw him get angry once. He had a great love, respect, and dedication for his family, friends, and elders. He was an outstanding athlete, but saw himself as only mediocre – and this was not from lack of confidence, but from his humble nature. I pray for his fiance, Wendy, his family and close friends that they will live in peace and happiness without him.
Matt, you will be greatly missed.
David Waters (Allston, MA)
March 10, 2003
LEGACY on BOSTON.COM:
MATT’S NEPHEWS BAND, A TRIBUTE TO MATTY:
PROSECUTORS USING MATT’S TAPE:
THE STATION MOVIE:
TEN YEARS LATER, PROVIDENCE JOURNAL:
60 MINUTES (GRAPHIC):
BRIAN BUTLER INTERVIEW AND VIDEO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=WuopFwB8v1Q (COPYRIGHT WPRI-TV CHANNEL 9)
A STORY ABOUT A SURVIVOR AND WARRIOR IN LIFE, JOE KINAN:
FROM THE ASHES; SURVIVING THE STATION NIGHTCLUB FIRE BY GINA RUSSO:
RHODE ISLAND FIRE CODES CHANGE BECAUSE OF THIS TRAGEDY:
RECREATION OF STATION NIGHTCLUB FIRE:
BRAZIL NIGHTCLUB FIRE KILLS MORE THAN 230 PEOPLE
© 2013, Ready For The Shift. ™ Wendy & Greg Zangari, All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy and redistribute these articles on the condition that the content remains complete and in tact, full credit is given to the author(s), and that it is distributed freely.