thank you, nigel... a powerful account of the tragedy, and very sincere. this tale is a necessary one, to minimize gossip and media spin; i will forward to my circle. a similar transformation: our campmate heather lost her brother jonathan, aged 23, to an overdose, shortly before burning man this year. heather decided to offer jonathan's ashes to the
flames of burning man, as a tribute to his love for the festival, and as a way for all of us to bid him goodbye. as a family, we paid our respects to jonathan on friday night; heather and theresa (jonathan's former lover) placed a beautiful memorial upon the 3:00 shrine, within the great temple of burning man. on saturday night, our hearts were with our jonathan, as the flames of the burning man released our dear friend's spirit. this has been an emotional year, and i am so grateful for, and touched by, the many stories of human transformation i have witnessed, within the context of burning man.
--- Nigel wrote:
From: David Peterman [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2003 5:21 PM
To: 'Seattle Announce'
Subject: [seattle-announce] The loss of a burner
By now I'm sure everyone has heard about Katharine Lampman, the 21 year-old woman who was killed early Saturday morning on the playa. What follows is a message from the person who was driving the art car Katherine was on... he has asked for it to be forwarded so that everyone will know exactly what happened, especially since the media has said little more than that someone was killed at Burning Man.
(Incidentally, my friend Beth was a friend and campmate of Katherine. I have asked her to let me know when / if a memorial fund is established. I'll pass along the info when I get it.)
many of you heard about the tragic artcar accident early saturday morning. my good friend was driving the artcar when it happened, and he has requested circulation of his statment so that we may all know the truth about what happened out there that morning. his forwarded
Please excuse the group e-mail but I wanted to share a couple of experiences I had this past week that will explain my actions, currently and hopefully not too drawn out future.
I was part of an annual 33,000 attendees week long party in the desert called Burning Man. A gathering I've come to understand and love. A community that to most is questionable, but to some perfectly defined. Survival is extreme and the ideals and standards are stentorian in every direction. It's a place where judgment is left at home and inhibition has run wild, ultimately ending in the spectacular burn of an 80-foot, imposing wooden structure of the
"Man". Primarily, an adult playground. Each individual interprets the reason and meaning of the "Burn". Some see it as re-birth of themselves, some see it as a spiritual revolution, and others see it simply as a pyromaniacs dream come true. Part of my draw is the creativity, selflessness, beauty and the gargantuan events in partying. Outsiders and possibly, with preference, some insiders see it as Sodom and Gomorrah, but I see as a giant love and art festival that comes out to the middle of nowhere for a week and leaves without a trace. can only scratch the surface of what this is all about. Experiencing it first hand is the only way to comprehend why so many people are magnetically attracted to the "Burn".
Unfortunately, with this many people, coupled with the heightened party environment, there are chances of misfortunes. I was a part of one of those misfortunes this past weekend.
Some may have heard of a fatal accident at this year's "Burn" but didn't get any definite details. The news traveled worldwide and is continuing to grow as the days pass. Information remains vague because of the nature of the "accident" and individuals are not being exposed for protection of those involved and also for the fact that no criminal charges have been placed from both the State of Nevada and the members of the victim's family. But, for those that are close to me, I want the story to be told.
First, a little background on the "I'm OK, You're OK Corral"; I'm second year burner and have joined a beautiful circle of old and new friends. Most have attended the "Burn" for many years and have always encouraged me to go; now I'm hooked. This last event, the group has grown to fifty plus, ranging from young and old, rich to poor, artsy fartsy types to corporate types - you get the idea. Our camp is composed of rented motor homes, custom busses, small tents, moving trucks and the hand built, two stories high "House of Folly". Our pride and joy-center piece is called "Bar Car". Certain individuals in our camp have converted a simple van into a serious, moving party machine that can only be described as a two story high, extremely loud and bright, rolling night club. This year Bar Car was also
pulling a trailer with additional bass speakers, full size couch and beverage containers. Following "Bar Car" was a self-powered "chill out" lounge comprising of an Air Stream trailer. It was call "The Love Sub". The spectacle was a magnificent sight and truly a magnet to anyone nearby.
A typical night out starts around 9 or 10 and continues anywhere from 2 to 5 in the morning. We cruise around to many of the hundreds of theme camps, parties and dance areas, occasionally visiting many of the freestanding individual art pieces sprinkled about the two-mile diameter of the open "playa". The art pieces range from big to bigger, with a wide range of _expression and costing anywhere from a few bucks to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Part of the beauty and immensity is that no one is out to make a buck. All the money goes back into the event's art and organization.
Friday night was an evening of enormous proportions. We started off with and event called "99 Brides" where everyone from our camp, along with folks from a few other camps, wore wedding dresses. We all went out and got married to the "Man" and to each other. Not to be taken literally by most, but a fun event nonetheless. We traveled around the "Burn" and just had a ball. A few hours later, we all decided to go back to the camp to re-group and change into warmer clothing. (Desert weather is brutal in both directions of temperature). Around
2AM we were on our way again, this time with me in the driver seat. We cruised around the camps for a while before I started to head for the "Temple of Honor". The "Temple" is the second largest icon of the "Burn" and goes down in flames on Sunday night. It's a multi-story structure made of black and white patterned paper on a cardboard and wood frame, a dignified architecture where people leave written messages and gifts to those who have passed on. Doubtless, the most emotional area, filled with an infinite amount of grief, pain and reminiscence. I passed by the "Temple" and moved on so as to not disturb those inside by the high volume of the sound system. A few moments later, the most horrific tragedy ensued.
Cathy, our newest and youngest member was a tall and beautiful young lady, a quiet person with eyes that enjoyed every second of her newfound experience. If a camera that could take a thousand pictures a second existed, she would've owned it. She wanted to take home and share this event with everyone at home. I only knew her for a short time, spending maybe a total of 2 of hours of interaction with her, but in those brief moments I found a new friend. We had a couple of conversations, we danced, I watched her dance, she danced some more, and I guess you can say she liked to dance. Her long straight, black hair flowed with every move and all I could think was that her expressions were genuine, full of life, full of passion. Even though we all just met her, we all knew her. She was each and every one of
us the first time we stepped foot on that ancient desert lakebed.
Cathy decided she wanted to see the "Temple of Honor". She climbed down from the second story, stepped to the back right of "Bar Car" and jumped off while we were in motion. Somehow, she ended up falling back towards "Bar Car". I will never forget the feeling that
surged into my hands through the steering wheel. My worst fears were followed by a myriad of terrified voices, screaming for me to stop the car. I ran back and discovered that the trailer ran her over. Her life was slowly coming to an end as she breathed less and less.
Revival was attempted, but failure was inevitable. Someone grabbed a spectatorís bicycle and speed off to a nearby ranger. Soon after the Sheriffs showed up with an ambulance, taking her to the medical center. A helicopter was on its way. As I was writing out my statement, a deputy told me that the helicopter left without her and that she didn't make it. My heart sank deeper than the oceans; my life paused for what seemed to be an eternity. The terrible news eventually reached everyone on "Bar Car", a new level of desolation proceeded and the mourning began. The standard criminal investigation started and lasted just passed 5AM. I took two Breathalyzer tests, both coming up zero. I also volunteered to take a legal blood test. Most of you who know me are aware of my preferences to keep any illegal substances out of my body. Needless to say, for my sake and for the outcome of the accident, I was relieved the situation went only this far.
Saturday's events took place. A funeral, a few moments at a memorial, a visit to the "Temple" and a slow walk back to the camp. I went back with my cousin and found the location of the accident. We constructed a simple shrine made up of extra pieces from the "Temple". I slowly walked back alone with my collective thoughts. Back at camp, everyone floated around in gloom and sadness. The sounds of crying and quiet conversations whispered as our tragic
story replayed itself in our heads. Sometime in the afternoon, everyone silently started the breakdown of the camp, a few of us went to clean up "Bar Car" and our evening meal was prepared. Just before 9PM, we all changed and gathered behind "The Love Sub". On foot, we
followed the "Sub" to the "Man" and waited for the burn to begin. As expected, we witnessed the impossible to explain burning of the "Man", an event so large and amazing we've all come to appreciate it's immense power. But, this time there was an added meaning. Amidst the largest party in the world, there stood in a group hug, fifty people weeping for our boundless loss. We closed our evening at our camp surrounding a small bonfire. A few speeches were spoken, a song was sung and folks slowly retired to a much-needed slumber.
Sunday, the majority of the camp went home. My cousin and I stayed behind to watch the "Temple" burn. An experience most of the camp have yet to encounter. I found it more to my liking, much smaller, more intimate and most appealing, very quiet. I felt it even more necessary for my own healing to witness the burn as to honor Cathy's last wish before leaving us. It was beautiful. I've never seen such detail and contrast in a fire. It looked like magic as the different colors flew around forming shapes and spirals found only in such a unique structure. Compounded with the dramatic display of sorrow amongst the observers, I encountered another facet of my soul. Cathy will be missed. Cathy will be remembered.
Adding to my already heavy weekend, I got more bad news. I found out that my first piano teacher, Joyce Rae, fell very ill to cancer of the liver. Mom Rae is my surrogate mother. She's known me since my childhood and taught me from age five to age eighteen. But her
teachings never ended, for her strength and wisdom has been a source of energy that has continues to grow throughout my adult life. She's not in the habit of showing people her ailments and believes dearly that this will pass. Unfortunately, her condition has left her
without an appetite. My heart dropped even further below the ocean floor as I saw how thin she had become. I spent a couple of hours with her before driving home to LA. Time will tell how long she'll be here with us.
I've always been resilient, able to get through difficulties with a "get down to business" attitude. However, this time around it's become apparent that my threshold is being challenged. I know I'll be OK, I'm still breathing, I'm still healthy, I'm still loved and I
still love. Thank you for listening and helping me to process my adventures. Till next time.
Burning Man Seattle Regional Contact