10th Anniversary of The Station Nightclub Fire: RIC Alum’s Films Among Tributes

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of The Station nightclub fire, one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history. Among the many tributes will be the airing of two films created by Christian de Rezendes, a RIC alum, and Christian O’Neill.

Their films honor O’Neill’s half-brother, Nick, 18, who was the youngest of 100 people who died in The Station fire in West Warwick, RI, on Feb. 20, 2003.

One of the films, “They Walk Among Us,” is a one-act play written by Nick about a year before he died. It is about teenagers who die and return to earth as angels. de Rezendes filmed the stage performance. The other film, “41,” recounts Nick’s fascination with the number 41 and the signs Nick left for family and friends after his passing to let them know that he was still with them. Both films will be shown on Rhode Island Public Broadcasting this weekend and on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Nick’s father, David Kane, said in a recent interview that signs from Nick began the morning after the fire and continued for many years after. He recalled one sign in particular:

“My wife worried that Nicky suffered in the blaze. But every medium we went to said there was no pain. Still my wife couldn’t believe he didn’t suffer,” Kane said.

“One day we were tagging a Christmas tree. We got into the car and I said, ‘Nicky wouldn’t want you to be sad at Christmas. Every medium we went to said he felt no pain. What do you want him to do? Put it in writing?’ Exactly at that moment a van drives by with the license plate: No Pain,” he said.

“We both burst out laughing. When you lose a child, your grief is so huge you think you’re imagining things. But there was the license plate clear as day,” he said. “We were laughing and crying at the same time.”

Interviewed about the filming of “41,” de Rezendes, a 2000 RIC graduate of the film studies program, said he saw “a lot of home video footage.” He said he came to know Nick as close as he possibly could without ever having met him.

“It was a very hard film to make,” he said. “I entered this kid’s world and it was like I was getting to know him and lose him – losing my own family member. It was very trying, emotionally. Ultimately the film is about moving beyond the tragedy to a greater understanding of why these things happen.”

Kane added, “Nicky left a lot of messages. One of them was that although tragedies occur in life, never lose hope in yourself, in God’s love and the possibility of a higher purpose behind human existence.”

“41” will air on Rhode Island PBS on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 8 and 10 p.m. "They Walk Among Us" will air on Feb. 17 at 11 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 10 p.m.

See “41” trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEEKbqWa0ZM

Christian de Rezendes is an accomplished director, cinematographer, editor and founder of the production company Breaking Branches Pictures. Christian O’Neill is a Boston-based filmmaker, theater director and screenwriter/playwright.