Oakland’s Ghost Ship — A Vigil

A memorial banner by schoolchildren at the site of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 mostly young people, artists, musicians, LGBTQ folks. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A memorial banner, painted by schoolchildren, at the site of the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I keep thinking, if only. If only those young people hadn’t decided to party. If only the makeshift stairways of the Ghost Ship had been closer to the exits. If only there had been fire escapes. If only Oakland’s building department had been aware of this warehouse-turned-artists-community and its building code violations.

If only 36 creative young people — artists, musicians, LGBTQ folks — could just please not be dead. But they are. They died in a fire last Friday that broke out during a dance party held at the converted warehouse.

The scene of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 mostly young people, artists, musicians, LGBTQ folks. A few days after the fire, it was cordoned off as a "crime scene." Photo by Barbara Newhall

Crime scene tape cordoned off the site of the Ghost Ship fire. The graffiti at the corner of the building is typical of many lively Oakland neighborhoods. Photo by Barbara Newhall

That’s the trouble with death, of course. It’s irreversible. It happens and you’re gone. Or your dearest dearest is gone. And there’s no helping it.

Ghost Ship Vigil

Small comfort — no, a big one: people care. When I drove over to Oakland’s International Boulevard and the burnt-out Ghost Ship warehouse yesterday, the place was crowded with people who were making it their business to care. Police and firefighters. Federal investigators. City officials. The media. A chaplain in firefighter gear. People from the surrounding Hispanic and African American neighborhoods. Friends and strangers bearing flowers and teary love notes.

Hundreds of people were there. But 36 were not.

Visitors at the scene of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 young people. A few days after the fire, it was cordoned off as a "crime scene." Photo by Barbara Newhall

Friends and neighbors stood vigil in the rain yesterday. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A mourner brings red carnations to a memorial on International Avenue near the scene of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A mourner brought red carnations to an impromptu memorial on International Avenue near the scene of the Ghost Ship fire. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A letter left for a friend at an impromput memorial for the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed 36. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A letter left at the memorial. “I keep on calling,” it read. “Should I give up?”

A written tribute to artists left at the scene of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed 36. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A tribute to Ghost Ship artists. Photos by Barbara Newhall

Chaplain Fr. Jayson Landeza, Catholic priest, at the scene of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 mostly young people, artists, musicians, LGBTQ folks. A few days after the fire, it was cordoned off as a "crime scene." Photo by Barbara Newhall

Catholic priest Jayson Landeza met with media at the site of the fire. Photo by Barbara Newhall

 

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Comments

  1. A moving tribute, Barbara. Thank you!

  2. an entire young galaxy lost, to rest in peace. thank you for this tribute.

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