Friday night, week eight.
The normal flurry of midterms and essays had passed, with only the last push of finals ahead in our futures. Many of us were just trying to recover from a long week when the shooting started. At first, it sounded like fireworks—a common occurrence in Isla Vista—but as the sirens began to blare, and more pop!pop!pop! noises came, the unease settled in. Over the next few hours, frantic messages and calls were made and received, as we all tried to account for and warn our loved ones about the gruesome events. As the hours wore on, more information began to emerge, but we were only scratching the surface of the horror.
News crews arrived, commodifying our tragedy in high-definition detail. Bullet holes marred the fronts of our favorite storefronts. More information was slowly released, and we agonizingly learned the names of the six victims. Friends, traumatized, described seeing brutal violence, and hiding in backrooms huddled behind counters. We held a vigil, beautiful and powerful, but during the moment of silence, the clicks of camera shutters were deafening.
Through all of it though, our community has rallied together to hold one another up. Our professors, teaching assistants, academic advisors, and faculty have reached out in ways that have reminded us of our unity. Alumni have reached out from all over, including Michael Douglas sending his condolences while wearing a University of California, Santa Barbara hoodie. Even our sister campuses have rallied for us, with every single UC campus in session holding solidarity vigils for us and those we are mourning.
However, this all does not belie the fact that our strong, supportive community has been forever changed. On May 23, 2014, irreparable violence and devastation was enacted against our homes, friends, and states of mind. The 24 hour news coverage will stop, and so will the trending hashtags and Tumblr responses, but the memories of loss and betrayal will not fade so quickly for us. That’s the honest truth that we all must bear—this tragedy happened in the community we love, against people we love—and we will be the ones that will live with it. To paraphrase the cutting and concise words of Christopher Michael-Martinez’s brave father, you don’t think it will happen to you, until it does. And it has happened, Gauchos. We are all living through a certain fresh hell, and must recognize that to make it through we will need to support each other more than ever.
As college students, many of us are just beginning to experience life and its many facets. Some of us are fortunate, in that we have not yet had to use the vocabulary associated with grief, because we have not yet experienced the death of someone dear. As a community it is important that we recognize and truly support those who were close to the victims. We will grieve our loss together, and reach out and hold those who lost their friends, mentors and partners. We will honor them in the purest forms we can, by remembering all of the beauty they brought into our lives.
As we all come to grips with this brutality, we must, above all, remember ourselves, and our community. At our candlelit vigil, we placed candles in our repurposed red cups, because if there is a symbol of commemoration for us Gauchos, the red cup certainly is it. We will need to commemorate in the coming weeks, and we will need to be aware of the trauma we have all experienced. Our community was visited by a tragedy, and the recovery process will be a long road. It is said that grief and grieving would look like a corkscrew if plotted on a graph, with one axis representing sadness and the other time. As time goes on, one’s sadness can decrease, but it can also increase, with the grieving process creating circular spirals graphically. We are certainly spiraling at the moment, Gauchos. In recognition of it though, only healing will be able to finally come through.