This is not a drill, this is not a movie – waking up to a UCLA shooting

When my alarm clock woke me up on Wednesday 1st June I awoke with dread. The reason being is because I had a 15 page final paper to turn in, a French speaking exam and a two hour final exam. All on the same day. I had been mentally preparing myself for the onslaught for a couple of weeks and Tuesday evening I was wishing I could fast forward 24 hours so it would all be over already.

I checked my email like I do every morning just to see if my professor’s had emailed me anything important. There was an email titled Bruin Alert and so I presumed police were training on campus like they sometimes do in Pauley Pavilion. At 09:51 my Bruin Alert read “Police Activity vic Engineering Building 4. Avoid area until further notice.” I checked my GroupMe (for my British readers that’s like the American version of WhatsApp). A couple of people had noticed in one of my groups six police cars and armed cops outside the building. They advised her to run in the opposite direction. It became clear that this was not a drill, this was not training, and although the photos online make it look like a scene from an action movie it really isn’t. 8 minutes later another alert “Shooting at Engineering 4. Go to secure location and deny entry (lockdown) now!” As a study abroad student at UCLA I had not been briefed on what a lockdown was. However, I have enough common sense to assume. I’d been continually advised against drugs and alcohol but not on what to do if a student came onto campus with a gun. My roomie woke up and we sat watching the news.

We can hear the helicopters circling. Friends are messaging us that they have barricaded themselves into classrooms. They’ve used their belts to tie the door shut so no one can enter. We’re unaware of how many shooters there are, we’re unaware of the victims, we don’t know if they are dead or not. The news cannot confirm anything until the Police does and all we know is that two people have been shot. We are unaware if this is a mass random shooting, we don’t know if anyone else is outside our own doors looking to break in. For over two hours we can only sit and wait on news

At 12:17 a Bruin Alert arrives:

“Murder/suicide” – a tragedy but also a relief. A relief because mass shootings and random homicides are so common that SWAT, FBI, bomb squad, police and fire departments swarmed our campus today just in case this was a worst case scenario. I cannot fault the police for their work today. They were fast, professional and controlled the situation. They made students feel safe, they made me feel safe. Yet, the fact that so many professionals are needed on a campus says a lot about how much worse this situation could have been.

It’s the weirdest thing to see #PrayForUCLA on Twitter when you go to UCLA. I remember seeing #PrayForParis. I probably tweeted it out myself. You never think that you are going to be involved in the statistic.

To have the events of today reduced to a hashtag is an insult to the victim that lost his life because a student decided to end his own and his professor’s. We need to examine why nearly every week since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 gun violence has been brought onto campus in America, we need to examine why professor’s and TA’s continued their classes despite the alert that there was an active shooter on campus, we need to take a look at the emails that were received saying that final exams would still continue on this day, we need to talk about why guns are so easily accessible to people whom should not be handling them. Mainly we need to talk about why we aren’t surprised when we see these articles on the news, why we are OK with this happening so long as it does not happen close to us. We also need to talk about why a student felt the solution to his issues was suicide. Taking one’s own life is a tragedy but taking someone else is abhorrent, despicable and evil. We need to talk about what caused him to snap, why he couldn’t find the help he needed, why college is structured in such a way that students break under the pressure.

My heart goes out to the family and friends affected by today’s events. You never think it’s going to happen to you until it actually does. Start talking change.

RIP Professor William Klug.