Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sunshine and Thunder

I was awakened early Saturday morning by a call from my brother. "What's up, Chris?" I said, annoyed at the interruption of my weekend sleep. "I just heard on the news there was a shooting near the UC Santa Barbara campus," he said, his voice a bit shaky. "I wasn't sure you had heard."

My stomach flipped. "I'll call you back, Chris."

Now, I am planning to flying out to UCSB in a few weeks to celebrate the graduation of my oldest daughter. For the past two-and-a-half years, she has lived in the student enclave called Isla Vista, just steps away from the main campus. Now a resident advisor on campus, she still spends much of her free time with friends in Isla Vista, where that oceanfront village is like everyone's outdoor living room.

This is where, last Friday night, around 9:30, a disturbed and angry former student went on a rampage, killing six innocent young people, all of whom were around my daughter's age.

After hanging up with Chris, I called her, hoping she was okay and that, at worst, she would be annoyed to be awakened at 5 a.m. her time. She picked up quickly, and it sounded like she was anticipating my call. "Hi, Kori, it's mom," I said, trying to keep my voice calm. "Just checking in. I heard what happened last night. Are you okay?" "Yeah, I'm fine, mama," she said sleepily. "Everyone I know is okay."

We spoke for a few minutes about the event, the details of which were still being doled out sparingly by the media. Relieved to hear her voice, but longing to beam myself there to hug her close, I hung up and turned on CNN.

What can I say? There will be much written and spoken about this tragedy in the days and weeks to come. Next month's graduation ceremony is certain to be a more somber affair, as we will surely pause to remember those students who died and the others who were injured and otherwise affected.

That would be all of us. In recent years, unbalanced young people have declared unofficial war on campuses around the country. As a mom, I felt each one, but never like now. My child was just steps away from this one and, on any other day, she could have been in this young man's sights. That knowing is a continuous punch in the gut, so awful it is excruciating to obsess about, yet impossible not to.

Kori is launching into the world, and the world is lucky to have her. When she steps up to accept her diploma next month, the moment -- its triumph, and its tenuousness will warm me like sunshine and shake me like thunder.

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