Two years ago today, Scott and I had been in Auckland barely a month. We were still living in this weird residential apartment in the CBD (Central Business District), directly next door to the record store where Scott now works.
We came out of a movie and I checked my phone, as one does. Amanda, a close friend of Scott’s and one of only three people Scott and I had in common before we met, had just posted a photo of Johnny, another close friend of Scott’s; he’s also a music producer and DJ. Before we left San Francisco, Scott and Johnny had spent weeks hanging out together at Green Apple Books as Scott trained Johnny to take over the music side of things there.
As I switched over to my Facebook feed, I started to piece together what was happening that night in Oakland. In a bizarre and modern version of “real time,” we witnessed our other friends’ collective scramble as news of the Ghost Ship fire spread through an endless stream of Facebook comments.
Despite everyone’s efforts, there was no news about Amanda and Johnny until the next day. We eventually learned that they had both died in the fire that night, along with so many more.
Everyone had something to say in the days that followed. So many posts and articles and replies and clueless reporters and only a few that, at the time, I believed came close to appropriately capturing the complexity of what was going on (thank you so much Gabe Meline!).
Here is what I wrote a week after the fire, mostly for myself, as I struggled to process it all. Looking at these words now I am struck by my desire to do something despite a deep sense of helplessness. The relief / guilt. The felt sense of being oh-so-far away. How hard it is to comfort those who need comforting when our own holes feel so large. It still feels important to hold space open for Amanda and Johnny. For Scott and Shanna and Andy and everyone else who remains, and for everyone who loves anyone.
Oh shit fire at Ghost Ship
Nothing in the news
Maybe Twitter will have more info?
Oh jeez look at this video
We would have been there
Maybe we wouldn’t have gone?
People are posting that Johnny and Amanda aren’t responding to texts
I feel sick to my stomach
We could have been there
Johnny was playing a set
Maybe we wouldn’t have been there?
They were definitely there and they’re missing
Ha, look at Johnny’s last post, hilarious
He was the nicest guy, why does that always…
He IS the nicest guy! Think positive! Think positive!
Maybe the news is reporting something
Oh jeez the media is the WORST
This person said that…
Wait, they have no idea what they’re talking about
The official report doesn’t have that much info
I have to stop looking at this shit
I should probably eat something
I wonder if I can even eat?
I can’t stop thinking about Andy
OK food was a good call
There’s a difference between being worried and praying
Look, we’re Those People on our phones at a restaurant
This spreadsheet with the list of people missing is far more efficient than the pinned FB post but it’s still freaky that the latter isn’t updated
Maybe they just didn’t have their phones
She Just Posted a photo of him on Instagram
Maybe their phones got lost in the fray?
There are probably bigger priorities right now than checking in on FB
I’m so glad this person is offering to educate the media about pronouns ❤
Who the fuck are these haters?!
I’m so glad nobody is responding to these trolls
Shanna doesn’t know anything either
Oh wow really, conspiracy theories? Please, people!
Nothing new to see here
Let’s go to sleep, we won’t know anything until morning
Baby, bad news – 9 reported dead, 25 missing
Johnny and Amanda are still missing
Maybe “unaccounted for” would be better language?
Nothing from Shanna either
Does Green Apple know?
Right, he didn’t show for work.
What about TCI?
I wonder if she’s friends with any of her colleagues on FB
It’s not my place to tell them
They would have been deep in there…
Wouldn’t Johnny have been playing right around then?
Maybe I should change my profile photo to one of me and Amanda
Maybe that makes me look like I’m trying to somehow cash in on this situation
I’ll edit out that favorite T shirt of hers that she was wearing, it’s not funny right now
How is she wearing that in every one of the photos of us together?!
OK I’ll leave my profile photo as-is
Ugh, now that the national media is posting the link to the FB event the trolls are out in full force
It’s weird how people only seem to care about people they know
I’ve got to stop looking at this shit
It’s weird to be overseas during something like this
Maybe that’s better than the possibility of having BEEN THERE?
I probably wouldn’t have gone to the vigil anyway?
We were just talking about Survivor Guilt
Gah, why do people have to speculate
I guess in such a litigious society you learn to point fingers?
Everyone deals with grief differently I guess
The hardest part is Not Knowing what Actually Happened
We probably already know what happened
Too many opportunities to practice grief this year
I’m going to send a note to Andy
What can you possibly say in this situation
“Love and Light” sounds so cheesy
How do you hold someone overseas?
What, now the media is trying to contact the contact people listed on the sheet?
Oh good they’ve hidden the contact info…
Wow look how many people have already donated
I hate that these donation sites take a fee
How much should we donate?
What is the money going toward, anyway?
I trust the Gray Area Foundation people
I’m gonna put both our names
What else can we do at this point
I gotta stop looking at this
The neighbors are coming over? I don’t want to hang out
Maybe it’s better to hang out
OK I’m shutting this thing down.