Do you remember Chelsea King? If you’re from out of state or NorCal, then you likely don’t know this name. For those who hail from L.A. or the OC, it might ring a bell. If you’re from North County San Diego, you know her name and likely recognize her face.
Insert trigger warning here.
Chelsea King was a girl on my high school track team; I didn’t know her well, but she helped me out a few times my freshman year. She was goofy, sweet and terrified of cotton balls. We would wave hello in the halls, and I was a little bummed when she told me she wouldn’t be doing track a few months before season started. She was determined to go to college and change the world, and to do that she needed the time to work on her senior project. Chelsea didn’t go to college, but she did change the world.
This past week, specifically Feb. 25, marks six years since Chelsea went missing and was found murdered. She was attacked returning to her car after a run in the early evening before a band concert. After six years, it could be easy to push out the memories of that time: passing out fliers, hugging Chelsea’s mom at a volunteer search party meeting, wearing different colors every day to school that week. One of the saddest memories I have is that morning; I was one of the first to class, keeping it together, but still looking glum. My teacher asked what was wrong, and I weakly responded, “Chelsea.” She hadn’t watched the news that morning, so I happened to be the first one to tell her that Chelsea King had gone missing.
It’s uncomfortable and painful to think about those memories, so I understand why people have let themselves forget Feb. 25. So, why don’t I just move on like a lot of people from my high school have? I take this day to remember Chelsea because it challenges me to be a better person. She reminds me that not everyone makes it to graduation — high school or college. A few days before the attack, she wrote a paper about Tolstoy’s themes of death and how to live a meaningful life.
“So if we essentially are born merely to die, how does one possibly live a life of meaning and significance?… I believe that a truly noble existence is comprised of living for the sheer thrill of living, maintaining an objective honesty with oneself, and upholding an unconditional positive regard for all.”
We only get one life, and she wanted to live hers so honorably. Her words have stuck with me since her memorial service; her memory stops me from taking each day for granted. Chelsea’s wisdom shouldn’t pass me by because it’s sad to think about.
When you choose to remember, you stand alongside those who don’t have the choice to forget.
In a weird twist of fate, Feb. 25, 2016 also would have been Veronika Weiss’s 21st birthday. Her name is one of six that almost every UCSB junior and senior knows. May 23 is a hard day for many of us, since many of us were living in I.V. when the shooting occurred. The same question of whether or not to remember Chelsea applies to whether or not to remember Veronika. When you choose to remember, you stand alongside those who don’t have the choice to forget. Chelsea’s and Veronika’s families will never forget them, and I don’t think I should either. Emotional pain is not always something that should be avoided, and I have found that healing comes from accepting the sadness when it hits.
Hard memories can inspire us to be so much more than what we would be otherwise. I encourage you to remember the Chelsea in your life, despite the cost. Chelsea’s Law and the Chelsea’s Light Foundation have changed California for the better and will keep doing so with the sixth annual Finish Chelsea’s Run taking place in a few weeks. Chelsea King changes the world through the people who remember her, and that’s something too important for me to forget.