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This Is Our Story

This Is Our Story: “Ghost Ship Fire”

Jamal Muhammad December 30, 2016

December 2nd will be ingrained in many Oakland residents’ minds forever, and they will never forget the worst neighborhood fire in the history of the Bay Area. According to the East Bay Times, over 50 people were injured and 36 people died in the fire. The incident was in hindsight of the No. 13 Oakland Firehouse, and it was only 600 feet away.

It was a Friday evening, and the Ghost Ship Warehouse hosted a party. Music label %100 Silk organized the event as well as promoted it months in advance on Facebook, featuring artists from Los Angeles, California. At 11:15, familiar faces started occupying the dance floor on Ghost Ship’s second floor. Soon open areas were covered with darkness and marijuana/cigarette smoke.

Survivors claimed that it was so dark that most people could not see what was in front of them. Several minutes later, a group of individuals suddenly sniffed an odor that resembled fire; so they pulled out their flashlights on their cell phones and began looking for the root of the smell. As soon as the group seen that smoke coming up through the cracks of the dance floor, they told their friends and once word got around people began rushing towards the staircase.

With little to no time to spare, a black cloud blind most of the attendees’ vision, which made it a lot harder to escape safely. However, downstairs below the party studio owner Carmen Brito woke up choking due to the abundance of smoke. Then she ran out the building and was the first person to call 911. Another Oakland resident named Aaron Martin tried to help find an exit by yelling and telling people to move towards the kitchen. But no one heard him due to the screaming and gasping for clean oxygen. Eventually, Mr. Martin jumped out the kitchen window, landing two stories below on a dirt path.

The smoke alone was killing people. Overheated air clogged the throats and lungs of the partygoers, which made it excruciating to maneuver throughout the warehouse. Significant amounts of bodies dropped where they stood, and people were pleading for dear life. The Oakland Fire Department’s deputy chief Darin White led efforts in maintaining the commotion and putting out the fire. She said that the smoke would have subdued the victims after inhaling for just a few seconds. It didn’t take until 4:36 a.m. to notify the public that the fire was under control.

Facebook even launch an application on their website, which allowed you and your friends to check-in to make sure everyone you knew was safe.

Director Alex Ghassan

Sadly, 35-year-old Alex Frantz Ghassan (better known as Alex G) was the last person to record the good moments before the catastrophe. He is an experienced freelance filmmaker and producer. At around 10:30 p.m., partygoers were preparing themselves for the musical sets provided by %100 Silk. During the celebration, Alex G uploaded a recording onto Instagram, but the video seemed to be strange and unclear.

Anyways, forty-five minutes goes by, and the fire begins to scare people out of the warehouse. In spite of that, Alex G and his girlfriend Hanna Ruax were trapped inside the building with 34 other screaming and panicking victims, according to FADER. He and his girlfriend died in a place where none of his family or friends could say goodbye.

In his 35 years of living, Alex G was able to father two 4-year-old daughters named Alexandria and Lucienne. They are twins. He loved his daughters so much that he tattooed their names on his knuckles. Also, Alex G was in loved with Ms. Ruax, and she was a Finnish painter.  He implied that she gave him a sense of purpose and taught him how to embrace different creative communities.

A Career In The Making

In addition to leaving behind his daughters, Alex G found excitement in collaborating with other creatives and building long-lasting relationships in the film and music industry. Some of his early accomplishments include shooting and directing projects for notable hip-hop artists such as Bodega Bamz, Masta Ace, and Talib Kweli.

After living in New York for the majority of his life, Alex G decided to take his talents to the West Coast. So he moved to Oakland and produced numerous short documentaries for KQED on different Bay Area establishments and local artists. According to FADER, Alex G even worked with celebrities such as Dwayne Wade, Aloe Blacc, and his longtime idol Spike Lee.

In the midst of starting his career, Alex G became good friends with New York-based rapper named Fresh Daily, and they met in Brooklyn on a mutual friend’s video shoot. Both of them grew closer to the point that Alex G would go to Daily’s house almost every day to travel to the city and discuss each other’s life goals.

“He was my biggest supporter and a fiercely loyal friend who encouraged my creative efforts at every turn,” said Fresh Daily.

The Greatest Friend

From reading and learning about Alex G, it seems as if he was the greatest friend to a lot of people. Even a few people came forward and described Alex G as a man who is not afraid to speak his mind but has a lovely sense of humor that can lighten the mood.

“We would fight like cats and dogs but we made up like brother and sister,” said Richardine Bartee.

Alex G, you have made an imprint on many people’s lives, and you should expect that your family and friends will never forget you.

“I feel like he made his journey a lot easier by being such a good person,” said Eric Purvis.