It’s a sad time in my city.
You’ve heard the news: On Friday, six UC Santa Barbara students were murdered in the nearby community of Isla Vista. The 22-year-old killer shot himself as police were closing in on him.
Memorial Day will never be the same for the families and friends of those young people.
After church on Sunday, my son and I drove to McDonald’s for lunch, as usual. I ordered a cheeseburger Happy Meal for me and a Number Two with No Cheese for Dan.
We drove forward to the outside cashier. As he reached for my debit card, the young man smiled and asked how I was doing.
“Well,” I said, “I’m okay, but I’m sad about the killings in Isla Vista.”
The cashier returned from making the transaction. “Yeah. My friend, Chris Martinez, was one of them killed.” He handed the card back to me with my receipt.
I had seen this cashier before, and he was always pleasant and polite. I instinctively reached out the window and took his hand into mine. “I’m so sorry,” I said.
“Yeah.” He squeezed my hand. As I let him go, I could tell he didn’t mind such a personal response to his unexpected revelation.
He continued. “I moved here to go to school and all.” He talked about how nice he thought it would be here in Santa Barbara. “Now I have dead friends.” He turned his head and looked away.
There was a car behind me waiting its turn, but I didn’t dare leave this young man without asking it. “Do you believe in God?”
“Yeah. But I haven’t been to church in a long time.”
“You’re welcome to visit ours if you have questions.” I told him the name. “It’s right over the hill.” I introduced him to Dan, and let him know that Dan is the leader of our church youth ministries. They nodded at each other.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Travis.” His smile returned.
“Travis, we will be praying for you.”
“Thank you,” he said.
“Goodbye, Travis.” As I drove off, I heard him say, “God bless you and have a great day.”
Travis. I stopped at the pick-up window. “Don’t let me forget his name, Dan.”
“I won’t, Mom.”
Travis and thousands of other UC Santa Barbara students, families, and friends, along with our whole city, are hurting, questioning, and angry. We are discussing mental illness, Isla Vista’s past troubles, gun control, misogyny, violence in The Hunger Games, and the eerie similarities to the UCSB mass murders in 2001. The incident is both uniting and dividing as the facts unfold.
Our sleepy, ocean-side town is wide awake.
The day after the murders, I shared some of my thoughts with my Facebook friends:
…. Though we cannot help the disturbed student who shattered lives last night in Isla Vista, perhaps we can help others who may be heading in that direction. I encourage you to keep close to the young people in your lives. Get them connected to groups that are uplifting and focus on things greater than themselves.
Our young people need to know they can have security, hope, and a purpose in life. Let’s be sure to pay attention to them and offer them these things. Let’s do it face to face, hand to hand, voice to voice, hug to hug.
Before it’s too late.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)