December 4, 2016, Prescott- It was terrifying to contemplate: Dozens of people, in a warehouse-turned-party-place, whose only possible escape from an electrical fire was a makeshift stairway, fabricated from stacked pallets. 33 of them died, and having had a good friend burn to death, forty years ago, I shudder at what must have gone through their minds.
The “Ghost Ship” warehouse, in Oakland, is just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to dilapidated and unsafe buildings, around the country and around the globe, being used for commercial, social and even residential purposes. Earthquakes periodically remind us of the need to upgrade our building codes and increase enforcement of them. Fires- Providence, Philadelphia, New York’s Garment District, Boston’s Coconut Grove and Dhaka come to mind most readily- tend to do so, far more intimately.
Another factor, in building-related injuries and deaths, reckless driving, also came to the fore, on Friday night, in Phoenix. Nine patrons and four employees of a Persian restaurant were put in harm’s way, when a seemingly impaired, and rather hostile, driver plowed his BMW into the establishment, not stopping his vehicle until almost at the back wall. He then got out of the car, and calmly took a seat, not even bothering to even look at the people he nearly killed. Fortunately, he was otherwise unarmed and the police were quick to respond.
Somehow, some way, the notion that all lives matter needs to be taken far more seriously. Lax fire codes, and devaluing the lives of those one regards as “those others”, will otherwise claim far more human victims.