Two years ago Sunday, a fire broke out at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, California. By the time it was extinguished, 36 people — friends of friends from the Bay Area art and music community I know and love — had died. I saw the fire that night, as I was driving to my home just a mile away, but didn't know until the next morning what tragedy had taken place.
Now, a mother has written a brave, though haunting, piece that describes not only what it was like to find out that her child had died in the fire, but also what it's been like to live with that unfathomable loss. A warning: As a mom myself, I found it to be an extremely difficult read and it may be for you as well.
Colleen Dolan lost her daughter Chelsea Faith Dolan (aka Cherushii) on December 2, 2016:
I burned my thumb this afternoon. The oven mitt I used to remove a cookie sheet from the oven must have grown thin in one spot, and the heat immediately seared my flesh. The pain was so severe that I dropped the pan on the oven door and rushed to the faucet to run cold water over my blistering thumb. In a flash, I saw 36 young people trapped on the second floor of a burning warehouse in Oakland, screaming in desperation, "Help us!"
My hope is that those beautiful young people passed out from the smoke before experiencing the scorching flames. I wince at the piercing pain blistering up on my thumb and find it hard to believe they felt nothing. The thumb on my daughter's left hand was charred black. Her cheek and forehead were blistered and peeled. I am undone by the thought of my daughter's excruciating last moments.
Ghost Ship didn't just take 36 young lives; it tortured and terrorized 36 human beings. The Ghost Ship fire still burns.
Memories of that night are ever-present in my mind. The smell of thick, acrid smoke, the intense light of angry flames searching for escape from high windows and the shivering cold night air all vie for my attention amidst mundane, daily chores. Waking up is a chore. Smiling is a chore. Breathing is a chore…
Read the rest at The Mercury News: Ghost Ship parent's agonizing two-year journey since the inferno
Ms. Dolan, and everyone affected by this tragedy, my heart goes out to you on this second anniversary.
memorial image by Wayne Hsieh, taken four days after the fire