My Wednesday had been uneventful. I turned in a final project for literature and anxiously counted down the number of classes remaining until I would graduate that Sunday. I checked my phone before eighth period, only to discover a slew of morbid texts from friends and family. The same sentiments filled each message--updates about a UCLA shooting and the inevitable, “Are you sure you still want to go there?” Earlier that day, a shooter committed a murder-suicide at UCLA. The murder victim was identified as William S. Klug, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. The tragedy hit me hard; this fall, I’m set to become a UCLA engineering student. I’m about to join a community wounded by unimaginable loss.
As I processed the awful turn of events, I poured over UCLA-related social media and devoured every scrap of news I came across. Deeply unsettled, I realized the campus was poorly suited for emergencies, putting every student and staff member in danger. BruinAlert, UCLA’s notification system, sent out a message Wednesday morning reading: “Police Activity vic. Engineering Building 4. Avoid area until further notice.” Most students disregarded the vague message, especially because BruinAlerts are sometimes sent over trivial matters. Faculty and students were not made aware of the gravity of the situation until a later BruinAlert read: “Shooting at Engineering 4.” Despite the impending danger, many professors continued to hold class as normal, with presentations and final exams. Even those who chose to heed the warnings found themselves ill-prepared to do so, as many buildings lacked basic safety measures. Most classrooms didn't even have locks on the doors, forcing staff and students to improvise.
As a few days passed, my horror began to subside and was replaced with awe for the amazing healing efforts of the community. The mourning campus held a candlelight vigil for Professor Klug, attended by over 1000 people. To show solidarity, Bruins turned to social media. The BruinStrong hashtag on Instagram and Twitter was flooded with messages of support. Members of the music community at UCLA provided further comfort with a bagpipe performance and free concert. An art installment created by students boldly read, "S.A.D. But Not Afraid."
Perhaps most importantly, the campus began to take measures to prevent such events from occurring in the future. University leadership announced plans for a task force committed to campus safety and a gun violence research center. My previous safety concerns were addressed. It became clear: UCLA wasn't just a campus in mourning. UCLA was a campus in growth, a community galvanized towards healing and improving. In the wake of tragedy, students and staff united to respect their late professor’s memory and eliminate the possibility of history repeating itself. In the UCLA Class of 2020 Facebook group, various students expressed that they wanted to go to UCLA more than ever. At first, I found this sentiment confusing. What was more appealing about a university post-tragedy? But after learning of the community’s recovery efforts, I understood. UCLA exhibited uninhibited resilience as it turned loss into an opportunity to become smarter, stronger and safer. That’s exactly the type of community I want to be a part of. In response to the texts I received the day of: yes, I still want to go there. More than ever.
Lead Image Credit: jojolae via Flickr Creative Commons