RAMON PRESSON: Bullets & wildfires from the perspective of a witness PART 1

RAMON PRESSON: Bullets & wildfires from the perspective of a witness PART 1

After graduating from nearby Christ Presbyterian Academy in 2014, Annie Carpenter enrolled at Pepperdine University on the California coast directly west of Los Angeles.

Annie graduated from Pepperdine in May this year with a degree in Psychology and Multimedia Design and currently lives in Redondo Beach, California, about 30 miles south of Pepperdine.

In this 2-part interview Annie shares her personal reactions to the November 7 mass shooting at Borderline, a bar and grill popular with Pepperdine students. The gunman killed twelve people and wounded others before turning the gun on himself.
In tomorrow’s Part 2 of the interview Annie shares her reactions to the deadly wildfire that began sweeping the same region within just a few days of the shooting.

Annie, when you first heard of the fatal shooting at the dance club near campus
what went through your mind and what did you feel?

Thursday, November 8th, started like any other day. I got up to go to work, checked some emails, and scrolled through the news. In plain sight, there it was: “Shooting at California Club with Pepperdine Students.” My heart sank, my stomach turned queasy, and I immediately started texting everyone I knew (on campus or off). I probably sent out 100 texts that morning by 6:30 a.m. It was a helpless feeling. What if someone I know was there? What if someone knows someone else who was? I had to get answers.

The answers started to slowly trickle in as I sat at my desk at work. I sat quietly working with the news on in the background. My phone kept buzzing. A coworker of mine, also a recent graduate of Pepperdine, messaged me to come outside. We sat in the alley adjacent to my office, didn’t say one word, but hugged and cried. We had each other. That’s all we needed.

Borderline is not just another college hangout spot. This is our community. These are our people. This is our family. They loved Pepperdine students. Many sororities, fraternities, and other student organizations had events there. They were always
welcoming to students, taught us how to country line dance, and offered a fun getaway from the stresses of college. Borderline was ours.

Pepperdine has an undergraduate enrollment of less than 4,000 students so I imagine that the campus is a tight-knight community. Is it safe to say that just about every current student and faculty member would have known at least one
of the victims that was shot?

Pepperdine is more than tight-knit. Everyone knows everyone. There’s a saying on campus that you cannot get from point A to point B without seeing someone you know. When something happens, it affects everyone.

What have been your thoughts and feelings about this incident after having some days to process it?

I’m still heartbroken, enraged, and I feel threatened even still. I feel so disconnected because I am not there and yet so ingrained in the community there because I am a recent graduate. It’s a strange half and half scenario.

I think it goes without saying that all of these events are occurring too frequently in this country. We have become desensitized. Work on Thursday was the perfect metaphor. I sat in shock most of Thursday while my colleagues were having another day at the office. I attended regularly scheduled meetings and had to leave early to grieve in silence in a restroom, then return to the meeting. No one knew the pain I was feeling, and, it seemed that no one cared to talk. It’s a hard subject, I understand that – but at least someone please say something.

Have you been in contact with any current Pepperdine students? What are they feeling?

I talked to a few students on Thursday and they said campus was very quiet. They said a lot of professors dropped their planned lectures to provide time for students to talk (or not talk) and to be together. Some professors canceled class altogether. One student said that their safe place – Pepperdine University – had been attacked. Their place is no longer a haven for them.

At the same time, something is stirring. If I know the culture at Pepperdine, they are going to fight to honor the victims in meaningful ways. They will cause a ruckus of renewal that will be felt everywhere. One of my friends said it so eloquently: “Alaina Housley was loved by people I loved – and that made her family. She was a part of my home at Pepperdine – and that made her family. She was a fellow human on this earth – and that made her family…we MUST do better, to do so is to honor her.” I could not have said it better myself.

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at ramonpresson@gmail.com. To read Presson’s previous columns go to www.franklinhomepage.com/?s=ramon+presson

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