By Cady Lang
December 12, 2016

A woman who lost her boyfriend in the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland found a beautiful photo of the pair taken by a stranger on a trip to New York City after asking for a “Facebook miracle.”

Saya Tomioka took to Facebook to post a plea following the devastating fire, in the hope that she could find a picture that a stranger had taken of her and her boyfriend, Griffin Madden, kissing in Times Square during a trip to New York City almost two years ago. Madden, 23, was one of at least 36 victims who died after a deadly fire broke out during a party in a warehouse.

“I need some light right now,” she wrote on Dec. 4. “I need a reminder of the brightest light of all—love.”

In less than a week, strangers on the Internet had rallied and found the image and its photographer, Arken Avan, who posts romantic pictures of couples on an Instagram account called @newyorkfaces. According to an Instagram of the photo that he posted, he went through his archive of over 200,000 photos to find the tender moment that he captured of them kissing.

For Tomioka, finding the photo was emotional. She posted the found photo along with a touching message addressed to Madden.

“I’ve finally found you. I sobbed when I saw this photo in Thom’s arms, and then, I immediately laughed uncontrollably,” she wrote. “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.”

 

Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com.

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