UCSB And Seeking A Moment For Hope

Maya Angelou passed away today, and a friend of mine shared the following quote on Facebook:

“The truth is, a lot has changed–for the good. And it’s gonna keep getting better, according to how we put our courage forward, and thrust our hearts forth.”

The events in Isla Vista, the community beside the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), is like a dark fog obscuring the bright hope Angelou’s words bring. On Friday, May 23, a single man’s choice left three men dead from knife wounds, three dead from gun wounds, and thirteen injured.

I have read headlines like these before, on front pages of national newspapers, in discussions on news shows, in Facebook posts from friends. I mourn for those who mourn, but am separated by hundreds of miles. These are strangers, unknown to me. I feel sadness, but distance creates a wall protecting my emotion.

Today, it is different.

Today, I am a staff member in a student services department at UC Santa Barbara. The events happened within a quarter mile of my office. Most of the victims are students of the university I both work for and graduated from. Those that mourn are here beside me. The survivors and friends of those who are now gone enter our department office, seeking solace, seeking help, seeking comfort. Staff work across department lines to provide the urgent help and comfort needed. We understand these students return to class with the absence of their lost classmate an abyss pulling eyes to a single empty chair.

The wreckage left behind is more than bullet holes and fallen friends. Never before have I had to look in the eyes of someone who has lost so much, so quickly. They have lost their innocence, their sense of safety, their sleep, their ability to concentrate, and so much more. They are entering a period of mourning, and the potential for lifelong symptoms of trauma. Though I am here, and I can provide help through the services of my department, I cannot heal them alone.

I am fortunate because I can do something directly to help ease the pain a little. I am fortunate the community surrounding UCSB is full of generous, caring people wishing to help. I am fortunate I work at a university which cares deeply for its students. Much is done behind the scenes on campus to make this a safe environment for students.

While we cannot go back and change what has been, we are able to go forward and provide the resources to heal what remains. This includes a week full of drop-in counseling with professionals, dog therapy sessions, in addition to spaces for memorials and remembrance. This is a diverse community who cares for each other, even when individuals may not wholly agree.

There must be ways to prevent such acts of violence. However, I see many grabbing onto one answer or another. The truth is complicated. The truth is it was one individual’s choice which led to this event. The truth is it will take multiple movements and multiple efforts and multiple studies all working together to seek more methods of prevention.

But, what can we do right now? That answer is simple:

Live.

We have a choice to make. We can live in fear of the choices others will make, or we can stand and have courage to live out our days. We can have courage to hope, to seek joy, to give, to see goodness in others. We live in a day where these tragedies are not ignored, but questions are asked and solutions are sought. There are dark moments, but we must remember it is a bright day.

With that in mind, I am going to repeat the words of Maya Angelou, who has left quite a legacy behind:

“The truth is, a lot has changed–for the good. And it’s gonna keep getting better, according to how we put our courage forward, and thrust our hearts forth.”

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7 thoughts on “UCSB And Seeking A Moment For Hope

  1. This is a great post Laura.
    I remember when 9/11 happened and I was working at “Adventures for Kids”. It was a Tuesday morning which was Storytime. I remember being extremely careful with choosing which books I was going to read that day. I had the largest group of mothers and children I ever had and I ended up reading more books then usual and then talking with the mothers afterwards. In talking to the mother’s I found out that all of them had chosen to come to the store for Storytime, because they knew it was a safe place to be and that great love and care would go into what stories were read.
    I think it is wonderful that the therapy dogs are there on campus to help with all of the hurt, pain, confusion and sorrow that so many are feeling at UCSB and in Isle Vista.
    May we remember all those that have been effected by this event in our prayers, so that through time the wounds in their hearts and souls will be able to start healing.

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