Photo courtesy of Instagram
Following the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting, social media allowed members of the Pepperdine community to share information and cope with tragedy and violence in a variety of ways.
In the days following Nov. 7, students and their families, faculty, staff and alumni shared their perspectives on different online platforms. These individuals prayed for the well-being of others, expressed a need for change and honored the memory of those who were lost, including freshman Alaina Housley.
“I have been impressed with many of the thoughtful reflections I have seen from our students and faculty on social media,” Sarah Stone Watt, dean of the Communication Division, wrote in an email to students. “In a time when these platforms can be divisive, it is wonderful to see so many of you communicating in ways that invite unity and healing.”
On Nov. 8 at around 5:30 a.m., Pepperdine confirmed that several students were at Borderline’s College Night at the time of the mass shooting. This post received hundreds of comments from concerned members of the community.
As students marked themselves safe using Facebook’s crisis response feature, their loved ones expressed simultaneous feelings of relief and disbelief immediately after the horrific event.
David Johnson: I haven’t heard yet if anyone from Pepperdine was shot. My nephew was there, but he’s safe. OMG, so tragic. Thank you to Pepperdine for offering updates and counseling.
Janet Starr Grzybowski: Praying for everyone. Thank you Pepperdine police for checking on my daughter and making sure she was safe!
David Boone: So sad. I have 2 children and 1 daughter-in-law who graduated from Pepperdine. When they were students, among other things I felt it was one of the safest places in the world. Just proves evil can happen anywhere. My thoughts are with those affected by this tragedy.
Alumni reassured the Pepperdine community that they would keep everyone affected by the act of cruelty in their thoughts and prayers, often offering help and praising the university’s leadership.
Cheryl O’Brien: Sending my thoughts to all Pepperdine students, alumni and faculty impacted by this senseless act of violence. Healing thoughts from this alumni…
Scott Cowperthwaite: So sad, everyone. As a Pepperdine alum and having a lot of history and friends with the Borderline, this is just shocking. 100% sending love to everyone … everyone. Do what you do best, Pepperdine – be strong.
Carlos Morales Miramontes: This news breaks my heart. As an alum of Pepperdine Univeristy, I’m here to help in whatever is needed.
Stone Watt said social media called attention to worship services and fundraisers and allowed individuals to serve their local communities by preparing food for shelters, aiding first responders or filling sandbags.
Alaina’s Housley’s own Facebook page is now a memorialized account to honor her memory and offer comfort to those left behind.
Katelynn Quick, a senior Rhetoric and Leadership major, said acknowledging diverse perspectives and striving to achieve unity are crucial components of effective social media use.
“Some of the best advocacy that I see on social media is the kind that does not name call or yell, but looks to inform and seeks feedback to become more informed,” Quick said. “We now all have a face for a victim of gun violence … and we can use this experience to advocate for change.”
As Pepperdine continuously updated followers with information regarding the shooting, including counseling and prayer services, Twitter users embraced the platform in order to raise awareness about the act of violence and catalyze change.
Senior Advertising major Amelia Edmondson said the content on social media has caused many people’s beliefs on important issues, such as gun control, to evolve.
“Social media makes the fight for changes such as this trendy and, therefore, more powerful,” Edmondson said.
Following the shooting, the Housley family created the hashtag #alainasvoice, which led to the Alaina’s Voice Foundation — an organization that promotes acts of kindness, honors the victims of gun violence and advocates for improved leadership.
Alaina Housley’s uncle, Pepperdine alumnus Adam Housley, shared his support for the foundation.
Adam Housley @adamhousley: You may think this is all of a sudden personal for me/us … but you don’t know me/us. It has always been personal, but now … we have a voice. A voice we never wanted to see elevated for this reason, but #alainasvoice is just that.
Many others also communicated through tweets, commenting on the community’s profound loss and doing their best to comfort those in distress.
Ashley @amowreader: My suitemate [Alaina Housley] is still missing, she is wearing denim shorts, a blue flannel and sneakers, pls let me know if you know anything #Borderline
Matthew Robinson @robinsonishyde: Been to borderline several times as a student my heart sank the moment I saw the headline I knew Pepperdine students were there. This is awful. #ThousandOaks
Greg Lee @abc7greg: Never thought I’d have to write this but a note from @pepperdine president to the university community after the #Borderline shooting in #ThousandOaks. Heading to my alma mater for our coverage and to be with the people that will always be part of my family.
Andrew K. Benton @PresidentBenton: Many are burdened by a sense of certain loss for many in the Borderline shooting and, in our own community, fear of the unknown for one of our own. May God grant comfort to all impacted by this senseless tragedy. Our students are resilient, but the burden is great.
Alicia Jessop @RulingSports: The last day has really reminded me what matters: Friends and family. Everything else is ancillary. Hug your loved ones. Let people know you care. Tell someone you forgive them. Realize tangible things at the end really don’t matter. This life is about relationships and love.
Although Instagram typically emphasized eye-catching and heavily-filtered photos, the friends and family of Alaina chose to focus more on the captions of their posts when honoring her legacy and sharing their own experience in the Borderline shooting.
Edmondson appreciates that individuals now have a wide variety of accessible platforms through which to share their insights with others. She believes that social media inspires individuals to take action.
“There were a number of posts on Instagram and Facebook that touched me very deeply,” Edmondson said. “It was difficult to put these feelings into words, but there were some thoughts shared that were eloquently written and brought peace to many.”
A fellow Pepperdine student displayed her emotions after learning of her friend’s death.
Cybele Jung @cybele.jpeg: Love one another, for love is of God. Remembering Alaina, a fellow student, and other victims who were senselessly gunned down in Thousand Oaks. Praying for healing for those involved, as well as their families. Loving and appreciating everyone still in my life.
A Pepperdine student present at Borderline during the time of the shooting posted the following photo.
Annabelle Childers @annabchil: I am okay. I’m not injured beyond minor cuts, and I and the people that I went with to Borderline are all safe. What happened last night was the single most terrifying thing I have ever experienced in my life. We had been at Borderline for no more than 10 minutes, when we heard the first round of shots go off. We heard glass shattering, we all scattered and I can say for me everything that happened next was a blur. Everyone there has their own story of how they reacted and what happened and where they were hiding, but everyone needs prayer. For those of us who got out safely, please pray that we learn how to handle this, because it’s not easy. For those who didn’t, please pray for their families and loved ones as they handle this loss.
Alaina Housley’s aunt, Pepperdine alumna Tamera Mowry Housley, expressed her grief surrounding the immense loss.
Tamera Mowry Housley @tameramowrytw0: Alaina. My sweet, sweet Alaina. My heart breaks. I’m still in disbelief. It’s not fair how you were taken and how soon you were taken from us. I was blessed to know you ever since you were 5. You stole my heart. I will miss our inside jokes, us serenading at the piano. Thank you for being patient with me learning how to braid your hair, and I will never forget our duet singing the national anthem at Napa’s soccer game. I love you. I love you. I love you. You are gonna make one gorgeous angel. My heart and prayers are with every victim of this tragedy.
“I have been encouraged by posts from students affirming their care for one another, their support of the community, and their reflections on how their faith has brought both comfort and questions in this difficult time,” Stone Watt said.
Follow Makena Huey on Twitter: @MakenaHuey