The Generation is, first and foremost, a foreign affairs magazine. After the painful events that occurred on campus yesterday, however, I realized that it is a magazine built on educating others through the written word, especially UCLA students and faculty. Normally the golden rule of articles published to The Generation is that the topic must cross at least one border, making the subject of each article international in scope. In this instance, I would argue that feelings of grief and sadness do more than cross borders; they are an integral part of the human condition. Rather than including comments regarding shootings, violence or death in other parts of the world, I believe it is our duty at The Generation to post this statement as it is. If the writing here helps even one person from the UCLA community move through this tragedy, or supports others who have dealt with similar violence, we will have done our job as journalists.
Yesterday morning, UCLA and the surrounding community was struck by news of danger and death. Many, including myself, felt a deep sense of insecurity that manifested itself in adrenaline and fear. After the active situation on campus had ended, I was overcome with sadness and empathy for the two who lost their lives in the Engineering IV building. My mind also jumped to the near future: news headlines connecting the words UCLA, murder, suicide, shooter, and death; articles written about the motives and how it could have been prevented. The events may be politicized and linked to national conversations concerning gun violence, security and mental health. They may also be compared to similar tragedies at schools across the country and the globe, though all those connected to violence here and elsewhere will recognize that fear cannot always be broken down into levels or degrees.
But for the students, faculty and alumni of UCLA these conversations will feel disaffected and cold. Yesterday two humans lost their lives in terrible circumstances. Two people who were like us in more ways than we can imagine. To speak about gun control issues or national politics now would be to ignore the tragedy that forced those at UCLA to recognize how alike we all are, and dilute the importance of telling those around us that we care and are grateful for their presence.
Yesterday was not about whether or not the gun used was purchased legally and with a background check. I am a staunch advocate of gun control and a national gun registry, yet yesterday morning I spent frantic moments texting with a close friend who believes in the opposite, making sure she was safe and alive. I spent hours reaching out to family members, telling everyone I was alright, and responding to calls from friends or extended family whose phone numbers I did not recognize. I texted with an ex-girlfriend I had not spoken to in over a year, who had reached out to make sure I was in a secure place. Students across campus did the same, returning calls and messages through the afternoon. We revitalized connections that had meaning to us, implicitly recognizing our feelings for those around us.
Those of us at UCLA, and others reading news headlines or twitter feeds, must see this as an opportunity to reach out to others we care deeply about. Reach out to those who we have not spoken to in weeks or months or years. Reach out to those around us everyday who we sit next to and share classrooms with, those that we connect with on campus but do not always have the chance to speak with, or get to know. The idea that the UCLA community will be brought closer together through this tragedy is not something that occurs naturally. It materializes through individuals who are willing to reach out to one another and recognize the importance of others we take for granted everyday.
Today we can be thankful of our opportunity to live and connect. I believe the following quote from Viktor Frankl is extremely relevant: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Many may choose to respond to yesterday’s events by advocating for new gun laws that further restrict ownership. Others will spend energy pushing back against those laws, or praying with their congregations, or being thankful that their family members are safe. But all of us should empathize with the two who lost their lives, their families and their communities.
It is up to those who work or study at UCLA, and our extended family, to remember yesterday’s events and think about those who are grieving for a lost loved one. It is up to us to reach to the person next to us, grab their hand, and say that we love and appreciate them. It is up to us to support one another however possible. Most importantly, it is up to us to reach out to those we disagree with, or who have different perspectives, and find common ground. Often each of us feels as though we are alone, either at UCLA or in our journeys through the world. Now is the time to connect and lean on one another. Bruins must reach out to Bruins, and to Hokies and Gauchos, and to the communities of Garissa University College in Nigeria, the Army Public School in Pakistan, and the Beslan school in Russia, and anyone else with similar experiences. It is up to individuals to show each other and themselves what it means to be a part of a caring community such as UCLA. It is up to each and every person who hears about yesterday’s tragic events to show what it means to be human by empathizing with the victims and with one another.