Thursday, September 6, 2007

Update: Burning Man Suicide Committed at Comfort and Joy

Now that everyone is back, the actual truth about what happened with the Burning Man suicide at Comfort and Joy is coming out. The facts are that no one watched the victim hang himself, no one from Comfort and Joy was using the tent while the body hung there, and that as soon as a camp member realized what had happened, the authorities were summoned. Below is a message posted on the eplaya website from Moist, one of the camp members. A formal statement from the camp is forthcoming.

Hello everybody,

I'm back from the burn and I have to say this was the most chaotic and amazing year I've ever attended. The Man burning on Monday brought a sense of "anything could happen" early on in the week... and in fact it did.

On Thursday morning I woke up to the sound of a ranger outside my tent telling another camp mate that we were all being detained and needed to go to the kitchen, and that our residential tents were part of a crime scene. Startled I rolled out of bed and unzipped my tent, I was told to get dressed and to go to the kitchen. The Rangers would only say that there had been a death. It was frightening for all of us.

It turns out that a young man had found our brand new beautiful Moroccan tent with its high peak, rafter, and chandelier and decided it was where he wanted to end his personal pain. He moved one of our furniture pieces under the chandelier, cut it down from the rope that held it, and then hung himself from that rope.

All this happened in the early morning hours of Thursday. We are a late night camp, so most of us were sleeping. My bed was less than 15 feet away and he was so quiet that none of us knew it was happening. It is my understanding that there was only an hour between when one of our camp mates had checked on the tent, and when another camp mate discovered the body. The young man came in alone during that hour and efficiently went to work.

After the boy had hung himself somebody (not part of our camp) came in to work out on the gym equipment we had at one end of the tent. Our gym equipment was painted pink as a joke, and he thought the hanging body was part of the joke, or a weird art piece (he thought the body wasn't real.) When my camp mates came in a few minutes later they thought it was a joke being played on us. He approached it and touched it and saw the face and knew it was no joke. We were camped less than 150 feet from the EMS and he ran to get them immediately. Despite what the SF Chronicle said, we did not leaving him hanging for hours. It only took seconds for our camp mate to realize it wasn't a joke.

And that is the about the time that I was awoken by the rangers voice.

We had the mental health team there to help us through this, and they were present when we made the decision to not take down the tent. None of us believe that this young man wanted to trouble us with his action, we just happened to have an open tent with a high enough rafter. We had worked hard to create our camp to provide comfort and joy to all the people of BRC. Some of our camp mates even felt that there was something to be said that this young man chose our space as the place where he would want to spend the last moments of his life.

After the coroner had left, and the police had reopened the space it was myself and another camp mate who put the space back to the way it had been. This was very upsetting for me and I wept openly with friends in my old camp.

David Best came by and suggested we contribute to the temple, and so we took down the rope and it went up with the temple on Sunday night.

I wanted to post this because there was a lot of criticism, and incorrect information in this thread, as well as in the SF Gate piece. I want you to know that for all the members of Comfort & Joy this incident was upsetting, and terrible. This young man inflicted a lot of pain on us in the process of ending his own pain. We made the choice to continue living, to make the day ours, because we don't think he wanted us hurt with his actions. This was solely about him ending his own pain, not about hurting others who didn't know him.

Comfort & Joy

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