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Families, Friends Of Deadly Ghost Ship Fire Victims Mark First Anniversary

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- Live music rang out at a ceremony in Oakland Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire. Tragically, 36 people died in the inferno exactly a year ago.

A year later, it's not any easier for the victims' families and friends. The emotions are still raw, the pain, no less painful and the loss is felt every day.

"The emotions just came right back. It was really hard this morning. I cried for two hours," said David Gregory.

He and his wife Kimberly lost their 20-year-old daughter Michela, in the fire. Their second time visiting the Ghost Ship warehouse brought back painful memories.

"It's just painful standing right here, right now, but we have to knowing this is where she passed. But we had to do it, we had to come back and actually see this location," said Gregory. "Actually driving up, when I saw it today, I just lost it. I could barely park my car, just start thinking about 12 months ago, when I came, the place was still smoking, and knowing that my daughter was still in the building."

Michela's friends say she would want them to smile more and cry less.

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"She's always smiling, bubbly person," said childhood friend Yazmin Rayes.

"Every day is tough to think about her not being here, not being able to text her when I'm going through something," said Cesar Vasquez Chavez.

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Every family deals with the tragedy differently. Ed Bernbaum lost his son in the blaze.

"There are moments when it just hits us, the tears and emotions," he said.

Bernbaum has channeled his grief into action. He and his wife set up a scholar ship under their son's name, The Jonathan Bernbaum Memorial Fund. They're also raising money to provide affordable housing for struggling artists.

"We're sort of looking at what's positive that can be done to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

Some families would like to see the building taken down and replaced with a permanent memorial for all 36 fire victims. They say no one should ever have to bury their own children.

"We actually didn't want to celebrate Thanksgiving, or Christmas. She loved Christmas. It was her favorite holiday," said Gregory.

The man who was the master tenant at the warehouse is facing serious charges along with another tenant. Each faces 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

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