They're calling it a fundraiser, but it looks suspiciously like a party—almost like a rave. It begins late Saturday night in the basement of an empty building next to Re-bar on Howell Street. Rope lights snake around cement beams festooned with fluorescent chiffon, which sways with the bass from the DJ's speakers. Girls dance with Hula-Hoops made neon in the black light, their silhouettes colliding with the cartoon characters in A Bug's Life, which is projected onto a white sheet.
It's been one week since the mass murder at 2112 East Republican Street, which took the lives of six people who belonged to this scene. Maybe the rest of the young people were expected to stop going out late, stop dancing, and start assuming that every stranger is a homicidal maniac. However, the people in this crowd have extracted another lesson.
At around 10:30 p.m., the DJ kills the music and all the gaudily dressed dancers form a huddle. Celeste Axelson takes the microphone and describes how one victim, Jeremy Martin, had actually invited the killer, Kyle Huff, to the afterparty where the killings took place. She says, of Martin: "He reached out to the darkness. He offered a doorway into his circle... he offered this to the person who would take his life." "Should we still do that?" she asks the community. "Or should we not?"
They should. On this point, everyone agrees. With that settled, Axelson breaks into an a cappella ballad she'd written that afternoon for the victims; then another friend, Lori Gifford, sings her own. People are embracing and crying. But the next minute they crank up the house music and get back to dancing.
It is one of two fundraising parties on Saturday night—the other is in a home in Capitol Hill, and a shuttle moves revelers between the two. Many in this crowd would be out dancing anyway, but this time it's not for their sake but for friends who aren't there.
Both locations have shrines to the victims, as well as boxes for donations. All comers donate at least $20, to go toward the survivors' expenses, the victims' families, or to the building of a memorial temple.
The memorial's exact design and location are still unsettled; but it appears that it will be constructed in the tradition of Burning Man. An arts community that overlaps with parts of the Seattle rave scene, Burning Man convenes for one week every year in the Nevada desert (members include Martin and survivors Anthony Moulton and Jesiah Martin).
As with all Burning Man temples, this one will likely be "interactive"—everyone who wants to help will be allowed to. It will also be temporary. It's a tenet central to Burning Man that both the building and the torching of a memorial is therapeutic to grievers.
By coincidence, Burning Man sculptor David Best was to speak at Town Hall Seattle on the Monday after the murders. "My role was to get everybody excited about building a temple," he said.
The burners all say they are definitely not calling the shots—any more than volunteers from the Fremont Arts Council or Blue House, or members of the rave community. The only people who exercise complete authority are the survivors and the families of the dead. It's understood that they'll participate only when, and if, they feel inclined.
"People first, art second," says Randy Engstrom, an artist and friend of Moulton's. "From my perspective, Tony just went through hell. If he doesn't feel like talking about a temple, fine. But I think everybody realizes it's well intentioned, and we just have to be sensitive."
The hope is that other details will take care of themselves. City hall has been accommodating, say organizers, and private businesses have donated everything from funeral flowers to Dumpsters.
In return, the survivors and their circle of friends are—despite recent circumstances—keeping their old habits of inclusion. Some at Saturday's parties even talked about extending an invitation to meet with Kane Huff, Kyle's twin, and other members of the Huff email@example.com