Bear with me, if you can. I have been feeling compelled to add my voice to the voices of other writers in the wake of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire. What I feel aside from shock and sorrow and an overwhelming sense of fatigue is recognition: “It could have been me.” It could have happened to many of my friends at varying times in our lives when we needed underground spaces to create music, art, and community. When we were young and “underage,” we needed places like punk clubs and art collectives and co-op houses as places of refuge, places where we felt like we could be our queer/weirdo/”freak” selves. We needed places that may have not been up to building or fire codes because it was all we could afford, it was all that our small towns or cities could offer, or it is where we felt most alive.
Part of the anger that fuels my sadness is the coverage by media. The media does what it always does: blames the victims, uses inaccurate catchphrases to paint the story in a certain light, and often gets it all wrong. And yet, we are depending on these sources for updates, to hear news on our loved ones, to find out what will likely happen next. And with every news item, come the waves of pain, disbelief, shock, and sorrow. I have witnessed my own personal traumas on the news and I know from experience that the way we do news here manages to re-traumatize those most affected by its coverage. Fire is an evil bastard. It has an insatiable hunger and destroys so much in its path. It ravages and takes and takes and takes.
I wish for those affected to seek healing in time and on their terms. I wish for cities to not “crack down” on these spaces but to try to find compassion and a way to help those who may have no other choice than to depend on unsafe building structures for shelter. I wish that we recognize instead of blame folks who have sought out an escape from the mainstream and have needs that are legitimate.
My thoughts and heart go out to you all personally affected and to those who feel those waves of recognition. If you are able to help, please do. We must show our support to each other in the best ways that we can.
Thank you for reading.