Photos by Milan Loiacono
Alaina Housley’s family, friends and the greater Pepperdine community gathered Wednesday morning to honor her memory, grieve and celebrate Housley’s life.
Housley was a freshman at Pepperdine who was looking forward to studying abroad in Florence next school year. She joined the Mock Debate team and added a minor in Music. Housley died Nov. 7 and was the youngest victim of the Borderline shooting. On Wednesday morning, family and friends filled Firestone Fieldhouse to attend her memorial service.
Hannah Housley, Alaina’s mother, spoke about the importance of love and faith during a time of violence and loss.
“There is so much love and it is bigger than hate,” Hannah said. “I truly feel it and some of you do to. Always remember that unfailing love for Him [God], from Him and within all of you.”
The Filharmonic, one of Alaina’s favorite musical groups, opened the service with an acapella version of “Ave Maria” to honor her passion for singing.
Following their performance, University Chaplain Sara Barton touched on Alaina’s love for Harry Potter in her opening words.
“Sirius Black said in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, ‘But know this, the ones that love us never really leave us,’” Barton said. “And so in this service, we will remember Alaina and we will tell her story knowing that her story will never leave us and with great respect, we recall others who were lost that terrible night.”
Hannah and Arik Housley, Alaina’s parents, spoke through both tears and laughter as they talked about memories shared with their daughter, their loss and their faith.
“Unfailing love. Two beautiful words that fit perfectly together,” Hannah said. “I can honestly say from my own experience and from what you have shared with me, Alaina gave unfailing love with everyone she met. She was not perfect. She was sassy, brutally honest, full of conviction, long winded, intelligent, musically talented and so much more. I feel her unfailing love as much as I feel His [God’s] unfailing love.”
The Housley’s founded Alaina’s Voice, a fund set up to honor their daughter’s memory and her voice of song, strength and change. The fund advocates for a change in media coverage surrounding mass shootings and improvements to mental health care.
“Our government should do more background checks before taking these people into our military, teaching them to be trained killers and then try to ask them to acclimate back into society,” Arik said. “Our media should not print the names of these perpetrators and show their pictures to give them their 15 minutes of fame because they’re in such a dark place and this is their way to be recognized.”
Alaina’s Voice also strives to remind people the importance of being present with each other.
“With Alaina’s voice, we are asking you to be kind, compassionate, loving, live in the moment, be present,” Hannah said. “You all have to define what that looks like to you because it will be different and that is OK. It was different and ever changing for Alaina. And that’s also OK.”
“Hannah, Alex and I are sad, and we have a gaping hole that will never be filled, but Alaina was happy,” Arik said. “She was loved. She was a part of His plan, and again, life happens for a reason. There are many people around us that need help. Please put down your phones … Make eye contact with somebody. Have a conversation with your friends and loved ones and say hello to a stranger.”
Religion Professor Chris Doran, who is a longtime friend of the Housley’s and led a Bible study with Alaina, spoke about the importance of community.
“We cannot process our grief alone,” Doran said. “We cannot build a less violent future in America alone. We cannot heal us or our communities alone. Let us take this painful lesson from Alaina’s passing seriously. We need each other now more than ever before.”
Doran spoke about the fearless way Alaina loved and how the community can emulate that as it moves forward.
“It is through this sort of love that our courage will bend the course of the universe toward justice and righteousness and it is through this sort of love that we can confidently proclaim that violence will not be the end of Alaina’s story,” Doran said. “It will never, ever silence her voice.”
Students close to Alaina took turns sharing stories, reciting prayers and remembering her through song. Freshman Lauren Drake, Alaina’s roommate, performed “On My Own” from Les Misérables, a favorite song of Alaina’s.
Toward the end of the service, the Pepperdine University Concert Choir performed “The Ground.” Choir director Ryan Board explained to the Housley’s why he chose this song.
“Arik, you mentioned that you were especially grateful for the smiles and the hugs,” Board said. “This piece, I think in its essence is how the singers in front of you, through a song, give a big giant hug.”
The Housley’s, who met when they were students at Pepperdine, expressed their love for the community during this time.
“I praise God that Alaina called Pepperdine her home,” Hannah said. “That she is one-eighth of all of you. That she was your friend, your classmate, your student. And that she felt that love that we feel standing here before you.”
Following the service, one of Alaina’s favorite snacks – Ben and Jerry’s Tonight Dough ice cream – was served during a reception. People gathered outside to cry together, reminisce and just be with one another.
International Programs Coordinator Drake Schaneberg said he was extremely proud of the resilience Pepperdine displayed in the last two weeks.
“It’s okay to not be okay but then on the flip side, just know that everything will soon be okay,” Schaneberg said.
Senior Anna Renfro said she thought the memorial service aided in the healing of both the community and the friends and family directly impacted by Alaina’s death.
“I think it’s really amazing that they’re acknowledging the community’s pain but also the individual, striking pain,” Renfro said. “Ultimately the desire of everyone is to just love each other.”
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Correction: Professor Chris Doran’s subject area was incorrectly identified. Doran is a professor in the Religion and Philosophy.