I was writing with my friend, Michael, this morning in Rachael’s apartment. She had asked if I could come over and wait for the repairman who was coming to replace the oven, and since Michael and I work on writing on Wednesdays, he agreed to meet me there. We were working away on our computers when Michael suddenly looked up and said, “Len, I’m getting all sorts of texts that there’s been a shooting at UCLA.”
At first, I just shook my head. “Oh no,” I said. “I hope everyone is okay.” I had completely forgotten that my daughter Rachael had just started her summer internship on the UCLA campus.
A moment later, I received a group text from Rachael that included me, Ray, Liz and Sarah that said, “There is a shooting at UCLA. There are multiple shooters spread out and walking around. We are on lockdown in our basement office and we are safe.”
I read the text to Michael, visualized what could potentially happen and began to cry.
I wrote back, “Oh dear, honey. Stay safe. I love you.”
Ray wrote, “Be very, very careful. I love you.”
Rachael wrote back, “I love you guys too.”
I can’t describe what emotions ran through me knowing that my youngest child was huddled in an office with 7 other people hoping and praying that someone wouldn’t burst in and start randomly shooting.
Terrifying doesn’t describe it. Horrifying comes closer. Helpless definitely sums up the feeling.
Michael was reading me the texts that were coming in from his friends and all the updated news.
I silently commanded myself to focus on the fact that Rachael was okay right this minute. I forced myself not to contemplate beyond that moment.
I texted Rachael’s boyfriend Ariel so he wouldn’t feel alone with this news. He wrote back, “I’m worried.”
More news came in and more messages from Liz and Sarah on the group message we were sharing with Rachael. We were all trying to be upbeat while we waited.
“Is there a bathroom in there?” Liz asked. “Do you have snacks?”
Rachael wrote, “No,” and “I brought my lunch.”
I let her know that the oven repairman had just arrived and had brought a brand-new white oven. I sent a picture.
Ray kept supplying the updated news which now had shifted to the idea of a murder suicide.
We all lamented that event, but also were happy that it might not be multiple shooters.
Finally, Ray reported that it had been confirmed that it was a murder suicide and the campus was safe.
Rachael said they were waiting to be evacuated.
We could all see that the threat was gone. Only the residue of such a terrible possibility remained.
Rachael finally called at around 3:30 when she was walking across campus to her car. She said that she could see SWAT teams putting away their weapons and that lots of police cars were still everywhere.
She said she was okay and was headed home.
I was already driving back to our house to meet my next student.
We all returned to life as usual, but with a difference now.
A recognition that today was a lucky day for our family and many others, but a very sad day for the families of the two men involved.
An awareness that no one is exempt from senseless violence and the shift can come without warning in an instant.
Even more clarity that as a nation we have far too many instances of this type of violence and we must develop a widespread plan to help those who clearly are suffering from such deeply embedded angst that they are resorting to such desperate measures.
May light perpetual shine upon the souls of the departed.
May God watch over all of us this evening.