#SaugusStrong – Santa Clarita Shootings

Posted on November 20, 2019


I took my phone off airplane mode as I landed at LAX midday last Thursday after an overseas trip, and a barrage of text messages flooded in. There had been an attack at Saugus High School, and several students had been shot. My heart seemed to skip several beats, and I found myself taking one deep breath after another. It’s one thing to read and hear about such happenings on the news, but you go through a whole other caliber of emotions when it happens in your own hometown.

As a resident of Santa Clarita for more than 30 years, a mindfulness educator, and a board member of the SCV Education Foundation, I’ve spent the last few years working very closely with our elementary school districts. This hit home so hard that I started to feel nauseous. The more I scrolled through news feeds, the worse I felt. How could this happen in one of the safest cities in the US?

I spent the rest of the day jet-lagged yet glued to the news. I barely slept that night, and a sense of urgency crept up on me the next morning. What could I do? How could I help? I got dressed and headed to Grace Baptist Church to offer my services. Students and parents were huddled in blankets, holding hands, crying and comforting one another. After a while I went over to Central Park, where news crews were everywhere and a small memorial area was adorned with candles, handwritten notes, stuffed animals, and other tokens of love and remembrance. It was clear that at a time when life is lost, our lives literally stop—especially if children are involved. When our kids are hurt, we hurt. The pain in one child’s heart is pain in the heart of the entire community.

Late that afternoon I was on the air at our local radio station, KHTS, with hosts Rick G and Jade Auchobon. The two-hour conversation was surreal, overwhelming, and gut wrenching. Twice during the broadcast there was breaking news: first, Dominic Blackwell, a 14-year- old victim was pronounced dead; then, a half hour later, 16-year-old Nathaniel Berhow, the armed teenager, was also pronounced dead.

There are many questions, and, yes, parents want answers. How could a student have carried a gun onto campus unnoticed? Students are asking why didn’t Nathaniel just shoot himself if he was in pain? Why did he shoot others? And everyone wants to know how many more children we’ll lose before stricter gun control laws are enforced? Certainly many questions will remain unanswered, and, because of that and the loss of young life, the pain will be there for a long time.

What is reassuring, though, is that the community has come together with incredible strength. The power of human connection is being showcased with pride and dignity. Places of faith are offering prayer sessions, services, and counseling to support the families and children. Local retailers and restaurants have donated food, coffee, snacks, T-shirts, and blankets for outdoor vigils; printers have donated signs. On Sunday, the city held a vigil, and 10,000 families showed up to honor our lost children and support their families as well as the traumatized, grieving Saugus High students, many of whom had witnessed the shooting first hand.

I could go on and on. To feel the energy of this connection is truly powerful and uplifting. It is this energy that will help each affected family member face a new day. It is this power that will help our children go on to the next school day. It is this vibration that will ease the fear and help the community and its students move forward.

Next week, I want to address my thoughts on what I believe is the long-term preventive solution to not just minimize but also eradicate such unnecessary loss of life and infliction of pain. There will be a time for that. For now, though, let us use this energy to recover and heal—together and individually.

Saugus High School Vigil at Central Park