NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A woman desperate to find an old photo of her and her boyfriend who died in the Oakland warehouse fire, found help from strangers on social media.
In a Facebook post, Saya Tomioka recalled the first time she visited Times Square.
It was June 16, 2015 and she was with her boyfriend, Griffen Madden, who was among the 36 people killed when flames broke out during a party at the converted warehouse on Dec. 2.
“Griffin and I just finished watching ‘The Book of Mormon’ on Broadway. I remember tears swelling my eyes because the city was so beautiful and amidst all the lights, I got to look at the brightest light of all, my sweetie,” Tomioka wrote. “I cried, and we kissed. Some random photographer captured this very moment, this very kiss.”
Tomioka said she never got the photographer’s name or the picture.
She turned to social media in the days after the tragic fire, hoping “maybe some Facebook miracle could happen.”
“I’ve always longed to find this particular photograph and thank the photographer,” she wrote. “Friends, possibly with your help, I can be reunited with this photograph, this treasured memory that I’ll always keep in my heart.”
On Thursday, Tomioka said the picture was found.
The photographer – New York-based Arken Avan — had contacted her. The photo was a part of his New York faces series.
“I have been hoping for a miracle, a glimpse of your light back into my life. With the infinite help from our families, friends, and strangers, I finally found you,” she wrote in a loving and emotional letter to Griffin. “I sobbed when I saw this photo in Thom’s arms, and then, I immediately laughed uncontrollably. Life is so strange. I’ve lost you, but I’ve never felt stronger in my life. Through our many years of love and growth, I learned how to be strong from you.”
Tomioka thanked her friends, family and strangers who came together to reunite her with the picture.
“There are no words that could even begin to explain my gratitude for you all,” she wrote, expressing her “endless gratitude” to Avan for “capturing our love.”
The cause of the fatal fire is under investigation.