On the night of May 23, once the majority of us had become aware something very bad had happened, I called my parents and told them I was safe. May 24 was a gloomy day, no sun in Santa Barbara’s typically blue sky, and a shaken community matched the weather. I went into Isla Vista on the 24th to participate in Adopt-A-Block, not quite understanding the full scope of the tragic events that occurred the night before. Multiple crime scenes, a heavy police presence and an otherwise uneasy feeling loomed over the town, making the severity of the situation apparent.
At the time, I was a green staff writer who went from trying to understand what it means to be a reliable reporter for my college newspaper to covering a tragic story receiving national attention. I cringed at the daily sight of the news crews descending on Isla Vista and the UCSB campus, yet I still worked to cover events as they unfolded as best I could for the Daily Nexus.
The weight of what happened on May 23 took a toll on me as it did the rest of the campus. I felt somewhat close to the situation due to my being a student and a reporter. It weighed on me with anxiety and nightmares, yet I had no direct relation to those we lost. On the other hand, the healing and the level of togetherness spread across our campus struck me as overwhelmingly powerful, and I hope dearly that it provided some solace to those who experienced the unthinkable.
As our community came together, the sadness and fear felt more and more like compassion and resilience. Being in a Harder Stadium packed as full as I have ever seen it, crossing over from campus into I.V. with thousands of neighbors to Anisq’Oyo’ Park to meet thousands more community members and witnessing the massive memorial paddle out are things I will never forget. I felt humbled, safe and proud to be a part of a beautiful community reacting in the only way that made any sense.
If you weren’t yet living here and it feels far from you, if you have a hard time remembering or relating in any way, it is understandable. What happened was an unimaginable tragedy in a world that knows too many. But what happened afterward between this community, the families affected and the university was truly something to behold. We set everything aside at once and saw each other through a dark time because it was the only thing to do. New and future Isla Vistans will hopefully remember not only the tragedy, but the recovery as well. Remembering that is to remember an instance where the power of love and solidarity made a remarkable difference.