The past few weeks I’ve had a lot running through my mind and I’ve struggled to find a logical way to tie it all together in a post. The world works in a magical way and, as luck would have it, someone posted an article yesterday that served as a good reflection for me in all of the things I’ve wanted to say.
For those of you who don’t know, May 2014 was a terrible chapter in my life. The list of reasons goes on and on, demonstrating the cruelest example of “when it rains, it pours”. Despite all of the ongoing events that contributed to the emotional hardships that were May of 2014, the event that shook me the hardest was the Isla Vista shooting.
The chaos of that night and the shambles that we were left with in the remaining weeks before graduation stand so vividly in my mind it’s as if the shooting happened only weeks ago. The fact that my school community stood victim to such heinous acts was enough to leave a strong impression on my life.
Reflection is a big aspect of AmeriCorps, and I’ve been trying to find a way to effectively reflect on last year’s events. Being in Crown King has been a test of emotions due to the gun culture that exists here. Signs decorate storefronts declaring “We don’t call 911” with pictures of guns and it’s not uncommon to hear gunshots in the dark of night. Just this weekend, I was on a hike when someone on the mountain over started firing a gun repeatedly for fifteen minutes.
My opinion on gun control is not as adamant as one would think, but the mention of guns itself brings back a lot of bitter memories that are hard for me to swallow. Especially as the anniversary approaches, it’s been hard to hear so many mentions of guns and be immediately brought back to that night. It has made it painfully clear that always, life moves on, and one must move with it lest be held back by the ghosts of their past.
Bringing it back to the article I mentioned, I read an article last night about the dispatchers and emergency medical services that worked the incident on May 23rd. They talked about the disorder that occurred, how they quickly came to recognize the gravity of the incident, and how they pulled together to save lives despite a lack of resources and personal concerns.
We’ve been warned throughout our time here that the EMS and dispatching aspect of our project would grow draining. Constantly being on call and prepared to leave at a moments notice can take a toll on the mind and body in ways that we could never imagine. Reading through the article this whole idea really struck a chord with me. Sometimes incidents will occur that are larger than we believe ourselves prepared for, but as emergency medical services it’s our job to pull together and respond as effectively as possible. In signing up to do this work, we’re committing to putting our needs aside to serve communities as best as possible despite any personal exhaustion we may experience. It’s not something I ever foresaw myself experiencing let alone at the age of 22. However, I feel a large sense of commitment and pride to following through as best as I can on this aspect of our project as a way to give tribute to those that sacrificed so much that night to ensure the safety of our own community. It’s not much, and it’s very indirect, but in doing what we can here hopefully we can change the lives of others in a way that encourages the same sense of selflessness and sacrifice that Santa Barbara EMS exhibited that night.
At the end of the article, the author listed questions that have come about in the aftermath of the shooting. At his last question, he states, “Why did we stop talking about it? Sometimes it takes hearing the bullet to remind us that events such as this should never happen. And yet they do happen … over and over again. We must do what we can to prevent these acts of violence from ever happening again. This incident affected us all. Please continue to talk about it. And maybe the dialogue will progress to action and then to change. Not one more.”
I’m always one to hold on to events far longer than what might seem necessary, but a lot of that is because I believe dialogue is an important aspect to change. It’s hard talking about the shooting let alone with those that didn’t experience it first hand. It seems, to some, something that I should have moved past by now. However, school shootings continue to be an integral part of our society. There has been over 74 shootings in the United States following Sandy Hook, and each time a mark is left on our nation as a group that can’t come together to discuss a problem. In the aftermath of the shooting, I heard argument after argument about gun control but no plausible solutions or discussion about the gravity of the incident itself. It seemed more important to argue a point rather than discuss a problem that exists. Regardless of if a solution is found, and I’m not even sure where a solution could begin, I think it’s important to continue this dialogue about mental health and gun accessibility as a way of trying to right the wrongs that have occurred. It’s almost the least we can do for the victims of these shootings.
If anyone is interested in reading the article, here’s a link to it: