Hundreds of people holding lights honored those who died in the Oakland warehouse fire during a vigil Monday night in Oakland's Lake Merritt. Kim Yonenaka reports. (Published Monday, Dec. 5, 2016)
Hundreds of people holding lights honored those who died in the Oakland warehouse fire during a vigil Monday night in Oakland's Lake Merritt.
Those in the crowd embraced each other or held up lights or flowers and said aloud the names of people they lost in the blaze, though some booed the city's mayor when she spoke.
Several people in the crowd had signs offering "free hugs."
Among the attendees were the parents of 35-year-old Travis Hough, who died in the fire. He was there to support one of the performers.
"He worked with troubled kids," Hough's dad said. "Everyone knew him as Mr. Travis. They all loved him."
Attendees were asked to bring flameless candles, glow sticks, flashlights or other lights. Whether they knew someone lost in this fire, or were just touched by the magnitude of this tragedy, the vigil drew a crowd of about 500 people.
"I'm only 15, and I don't know what they are going through," Taylor Nelson said. "I want to say they are in my prayers."
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf spoke at the event, where she was greeted with boos and calls to resign from saddended, angry atendants. Some people have criticized Schaaf, saying she emphasized the warehouse's code violations instead of the city's shortage of affordable housing in the hours following the deadly fire.
"As we move forward right now, our focus has to be on those who we know are lost and those we are going to learn have been lost," the mayor said.
In San Francisco, a tearful crowd remembered the transgender victims of the warehouse fire.
"Some of those members don't have a connection to family," one attendee said. "We are their family; it is our job to hold them up."
The transgender clergy said some members of the community lived in the warehouse. But many were there to see popular transgender performer Cash Askew, the 22-year-old who died in the fire.
Em Bohlka's father said his daughter was there to see the show. In a statement, he said his heart is broken, and it was wonderful to see her becoming who she was meant to be.
It's possible some victims' parents will never know their child died.
Pastor Megan Rohrer said in life many of the transgender victims struggled to feel safe and belong. She said in death, the coroner is respecting who they were.
"It's kind of beautiful," she said. "They are taking time to make sure they're using chosen names and preferred gender pronouns."