I find the sound of helicopters particularly disturbing. I was in Berkeley, California when the OCCUPY movements occurred there. Listening to the faint sound of the propellers rotating overhead from my dorm room started to feel almost natural, as did reading about my campus on an array of different news sources. This was also the time I suffered the most severely from post-traumatic stress disorder. The demonstrations began on November 9th, 2011. I dropped out of Cal on November 16th, 2011 — predominately due to the post-traumatic stress I was experiencing after being raped at the age of 15.
Last year during the Deltopia riots, the sound of news helicopters flying over my community came back into my life. It stayed alive in my mind and in the skies above Isla Vista for over a month. I have been preparing myself for the emotions I may or may not experience during the upcoming anniversary of the events of last May, but what made the incident this week so unsettling for me and for our community was the lack of expectation. The sound of helicopters was back, along with the feeling of dread for my loved ones as the news reached me that there was a shooting hundreds of feet away from my home. My own personal safety was violated once again, along with the safety of my entire community. As one person on Yik Yak said so tellingly — nobody should have to experience calling their mom to tell her there has been a shooting at your school once, let alone twice. All of this came back much too vividly, and over a week earlier than any of us anticipated.
The sound of helicopters was back, along with the feeling of dread for my loved ones as the news reached me that there was a shooting hundreds of feet away from my home.
Post-traumatic stress comes in different forms for everyone. For some it’s with the steady drum of a helicopter, for others it’s the explosion of fireworks near their home that sounds much too similar to a gunshot. For others, it never comes at all. Regardless of your own personal experience we must be mindful of the experiences of others following the events of Monday evening and throughout the remembrance events that are fast approaching. This is not about being overly sensitive and screening our every word in the event what we say may trigger another person — it’s about being mindful of the experiences of our fellow community members during a time of need. It’s about loving and respecting each other. No, last night did not end up being a blatant attempt by someone to recreate the events of last May almost exactly a year later, but it doesn’t change the fact that it hit far too close to home for far too many of us.
Another thing I was reminded vividly of last night was the strength and resilience of this community. Within the span of 30 minutes my housemates and I had managed to account for all our loved ones; I had text messages from coworkers, friends and family members making sure I was safe; local social media outlets were used to keep each other informed with the most up-to-date information; students from across the campus were posting the contact information from CAPS up on Facebook and Instagram — we put in our greatest efforts to make sure not one of us was left behind. I love Isla Vista and I am grateful to have called this my home for the past four years. While news outlets may point at the flaws in our community and blame us for its lack of safety, we know the truth. It is our community that has made us able to survive and continue to survive this tragedy. It is not Isla Vista that has caused this problem; it is the Isla Vista community that has made something strong and beautiful out of this problem.
I am a Gaucho, and I am damn proud.