Mourners share love and memories at the scene of tragedy
As flowers, notes and mementos cover the sidewalk outside Cafe Racer, friends of the victims share their happy memories and their grief.
Seattle Times staff reporters
A steady stream of friends, relatives and concerned community members stopped by the sidewalk outside Cafe Racer all day Thursday and into the evening, sharing stories and memories of those lost — and how they will be remembered.
Cafe owner Kurt Geissel was visibly shaken as he watched the growing display of flowers, candles, cans of beer, posters, poetry, letters and a tiny toy piano outside the closed cafe.
"The outpouring of love and concern from the community is unbelievable, just as what happened here is unfathomable," said Geissel, who has owned the cafe eight years and counted the victims among his closest friends.
Among those placing bouquets on the Roosevelt Way sidewalk was Janna Silver, who got married in the cafe on New Year's Eve 2 ½ years ago — and who said that one of the victims, Drew Keriakedes, officiated.
"My husband and I were in the cafe talking about getting married, asking people if they knew someone who could do it, and Drew said he could," she said, adding that Keriakedes was certified as a minister.
"It was great," she said. "Whoever happened to be at the cafe at the time were the guests at the wedding — maybe about 20 or 30 people."
Silver said the cafe was one of the first hangouts she heard about when she moved to Seattle three years ago. "Drew and Joe (Albanese), without a doubt, were the life of the place," she said. "Always talking, always smiling."
Nikk Dakota, vying with the steady hum of traffic along Roosevelt, offered a mournful blues tribute on his harmonica.
"I'm here to express my grief, and my love," said Dakota, who knew Keriakedes for more than 20 years, and had occasionally performed with Keriakedes and Albanese. "These guys brought incredible joy and laughter to the community. For it all to end like this is shocking."
Thursday night, in honor of the dead, a procession of more than 300 people, some dressed in white and carrying bells, flowers and candles trailed after masked figures in white as they wended their way through the streets surrounding the cafe.
Some sang, others just listened to a quartet of musicians.
Anna Rhodes, a Seattle therapist, turned out for the walk to seek community.
"There's a need for human connection and community at times like this. This helps people know that they're not alone. It helps people who are grieving to feel less lonely. It's the power of love."
After about an hour, the procession ended at the cafe where the number of people continued to ebb and flow.
Some came just to cry. And before long, somebody else would offer a comforting arm.
In the days ahead, some kind of public memorial event may be held, but likely after the victims' families will have held their own private memorials, said Brian Paterik, of Buckley, a brother-in-law of Albanese.
He stopped by the cafe scene Thursday afternoon and said he expects to return Friday with other relatives flying in from other parts of the country.
Geissel said he's not sure what's next for the cafe and how it will honor its lost patrons. "I'm going to find out from the community what it needs," he said. "This is a community space."
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org