Ghost Ship Trial Outcome: Here Are Your Reflections

KQED invited our audience to share their response to the outcome of the Ghost Ship trial. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

The split decision of the Ghost Ship criminal trial stirred up intense emotions on Thursday, and it's clear the 2016 warehouse fire made a lasting impact in our Bay Area communities.

We created a space for you to share your thoughts and reflections after the outcome. Here are some of those responses:

What are your thoughts on the criminal trial outcome?

"I'm heavily involved in the local DIY scene and my heart aches. So many of the sanctuaries we misfits build for ourselves aren't up to code. I feel like this could've happened at any of my favorite places: the DIY venues and punk houses where I feel socially safe. I recognize that a conviction may have felt like closure, but I can't imagine that it would have been a true victory. I can all too well picture this tragedy happening at any of the spaces I love, and my own friends on trial. With or without a conviction, there would have been no justice." - Caitlin H.

"Mixed, as I wasn't privy to all the facts, but I obsessed over all media accounts. I felt neutral on Harris and slightly biased against Almena based on media and shared community reporting, but I feel the most confused and pretty much incensed over the landlord, Chor Ng, and her family, who all manage multiple properties and have documented unresolved issues, NOT BEING CHARGED. But allegedly getting $3m in insurance payments. That feels the most criminal and tragic to me." - SCP

"So no one is responsible?" - Marcia Hagen

"I am horrified at the jury decision. It is unconscionable that 36 dear souls roasted to death because of inaction and greed on the part of two men in a position to provide a safe environment for their guests. I am left feeling that the jury just wanted to go home - and who could blame them after months of trial and weeks of deliberations fraught with emotion. The system failed these victims and their families." - Lynda

"Max Harris never should have been charged and the DA should be ashamed that she charged him instead of the landlord. I could see how jurors could be split over Almena, it was not clear cut. Hopefully they can reach an agreement instead of doing another 6-month trial. This also goes to show that the judge was wrong to reject the plea bargain and the prosecutor was right to offer one, implicitly recognizing weaknesses in the case." - Jenny

"I followed this whole trial very closely because it was just such a tragedy. My feelings here at the end: Derick Almena is a cocky, ass who wasn’t ever thinking about something as mundane as “safety.” He was an artist! Inspiring a community! He’s a narcissist, but I don’t think he’s a murderer. Max Harris was just a young kid who got sucked into Almena’s World view. The souls who died attending a concert didn’t know what they were walking into. It’s a horrible tragedy, all around. Social services walked through the property and visited it many times, and never did anything. We all need to pay more attention and do better. Assess every situation you walk into. Know where your exits are. If your gut tells you something’s not right, trust it. It’s all just so sad." - Wyoming

"I have felt conflicted all along. Did Almena have bad intention? There is a lot of blame to go around — the owners of the space, the fire department, the police. There were plenty of entities that could have prevented the catastrophe. Is ruining another person’s life justice?" - Debora Sayre

"I'm shocked and sad. As an event manager, I truly don't understand how they weren't both convicted. I've thrown illegal warehouse parties in Oakland, and the rules are 1. Make sure no one dies 2. Space must be easy to evacuate if the fuzz shows up. These guys evacuated themselves (Max went back to "evacuate" his cell phone and laptop) and left everyone on the second floor try[ing] to get [out of the] warehouse decorated with doors to nowhere." - Anna

How did the Ghost Ship fire impact you?

"I like most people was overwhelmed by the tragedy. As an artist, I know how little money they had and this was the place for them to create and live. More needs to be done for artists. Look North to Seattle." - Bonnie Smith

Complete Coverage of the Ghost Ship Trial

"Deeply at an emotional level as someone who's been part of similar communities. We don't fund and pay artists as we should. Many artists sacrifice lifestyle/comfort for art's sake. They should remain safe. I cried over certain musicians whose music was amazing, over the beautiful tribute wall at Highwire Coffee in Berkeley, over the young and innocent lives lost because they went out to support live music and the arts." - SCP

"I am a friend of the mother of one of the victims whose only child perished. Her loss and emotional well-being is unimaginable." - Lynda

"It fragmented and destroyed a once vibrant, open, and creative community." - Brian

"I lost three friends forever. I think about them every day." - Diego Aguilar-Canabal

Some wrote a letter to one of the people lost in the fire.

"Dear child of God, please know you are cherished and your mommy’s wonderful memories of your life will sustain her. She will see you on the other side and you will rejoice in her joining you after her final journey. Although I never met you, I know I missed so much — your kindness, compassion, talent and love for your many friends are your legacy. Sleep well, dear boy." - Lynda

"Rest in Power Jenpop. I know you're the life of the party. Elsewhere." - David Houston

"Dear Cash: Your life was too short, but your death was not in vain. I am one of many creatives and arts supporters who learned of your life, your contributions, and your music through the tragedy of the Ghost Ship fire. You're uniquely talented, and I now listen to your music that I so sadly only heard of after your death. Thank you for living your life on your terms and putting your work out. You are loved and missed." - SCP

"I understand from my own experience of the loss of my son you have to forgive and feel love for the mistakes made by all to get well emotionally to feel healthy and have a happy good life FORGIVE and let your anger go." - Kathy

"I am sorry to all who died that night that your life was prematurely shortened. That there aren’t safe spaces on all levels to meet and play music and create. You are loved and missed." - Debora Sayre

These responses have been lightly edited. Continue to share your thoughts and reflections in the form below.


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