|Notre Dame Graduation 1999|
When I was 18, I spent my freshman year at LMU while many of my closest friends packed up their cars and moved to Isla Vista (IV), a neighborhood in Santa Barbara that houses students from UCSB and for my friends, Santa Barbara City College. I made fast friends with a suite-mate, Tara, who would one day become my Maid of Honor at my wedding. My friendship with Tara started on a road trip up to IV when we realized her radio was broken and we would be forced to make conversation for the two hour drive. It was a trip that sealed our fate as life-long friends and a trip that sealed our love for the freedom a weekend in Santa Barbara gave us.
|Me and Tara|
My friends from high school welcomed Tara with open arms and we solidified our sisterhood with shots of Fahrenheit 151 rum, cigarettes, and all of the debauchery that comes with being 18 and away from home for the first time. We spent our Friday and Saturday nights hopping from house party to house party along the IV streets. We were introduced to fraternity keggers, and raves and inducted into the hall of embarrassing hangovers as we held each other's hair while we each took a turn kissing the porcelain god. We made out with boys and then made out with each other's boys and met up for breakfast at Denny's. We, the ladies - me, Tara, Jessica, Karen, Michelle...
|Me and Jessica|
Tara and I would drive home from a weekend in IV in pain and laughter as we geared up for the week ahead back at LMU, but really just geared up for the next weekend when we could go back to see our friends and make new friends in Isla Vista.
This past weekend I was in Santa Barbara for the first time since those carefree weekends in IV. I was sitting in a classy bar on State Street with a glass of chardonnay, seated next to my husband, as we waited for my brother's play to start that evening. We asked the bartender to turn on the Kings game which led us to a news channel which flashed the horrific events that happened in IV the night before. There was no sound, only images - yellow caution tape, shattered glass, flowers, students on street corners and a Youtube video of a young man or woman, I could not tell.
"Seven Dead in Mass Shooting, Isla Vista."
My heart sank. I thought of me and Tara. I thought of Jessica and Karen. I thought of Dante and Sean and Tim and Sami. I thought of all the people that I still carry such a deep love for, despite the years and the distance. The kind of love that only comes when you grow up and make mistakes together. The kind of love we founded in the halls of high school and a freshman dorm, but cemented on the streets of IV. I thought of us, fourteen years ago, standing on those corners. And then I saw versions of us, frightened, paralyzed, looking to make sense of something that never will. I thought of all that happened in between our time in IV and what happened in IV just hours before I returned to my old stomping grounds after fourteen years away. People are married, have doctorates, babies, and some have even passed on. Not all of our stories have turned out happy, but we all had the chance of the last fourteen years. We all had life after IV.
|Me and Karen|
My heart is truly breaking for the families of the victims and for the victims themselves. This was not how it was supposed to end. It's not how it is ever supposed to end.
My disgust for gun lobbyists and the NRA has been a cauldron of anger that I have been so afraid of, I have remained silent for fear it was all going to come out in a fit of snot and tears and rage, an exposure I have been afraid of since my own family experienced their own loss at the hands of gun violence in 2010.
In 2012, I was working in an elementary school in New York watching on my computer the horrific events of the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings unfolding before me and the nation.
Just this weekend, I was in Santa Barbara in a bar, the day after the mass murders in IV.
I am still afraid of my rage. Afraid it won't stop if it starts to pour out. But hearing Richard Martinez ask the nation, "When will the insanity stop?!" and blame his son's murder on the NRA and "craven, irresponsible politicians" was more than witnessing heartbreaking courage, it was a duty. No one wants to have to use their child's murder for a political argument. But I argue that the debate over gun control in the United States is beyond politics. Our lack of gun control is a human rights violation of the most egregious kind - it's legal. California has some of the tougher gun control laws and still, this young man who had a history of taking anti-psychosis medicine, a history of trying to push women off of a ten foot ledge not even a year prior, a history of mental illness, and published manifesto videos on Youtube, was able to legally purchase semi-automatic weapons with extended clips.
I stand with Richard Martinez. Fuck gun rights. What about our right to live?