Tragedy creates common ground


Artwork by Vaishnavi Ramprasad

Oak Park is in a time of healing. In the span of 24 hours, our community lost 12 lives at the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, and many residents faced mandatory evacuations when fires threatened the communities of Oak Park, Malibu, Thousand Oaks, Calabasas, Agoura Hills and more.

The Oak Park community has been through an ordeal that many will not experience in their whole lives let alone over a couple of days. The Woolsey Fire and Borderline shooting have shaken our community, but have not dislodged our values. We are not defined by what we went through, but rather by what we have done to build support for a devastated community.

As survivors of not one, but two tragedies, we managed to come together, offering aid to strangers regardless of political affiliations, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Residents found ways to reach out and lend a hand in whatever way possible.

Many residents created signs thanking first-responders for all of their backbreaking work. They have taken extra time to acknowledge the incredible actions of firefighters and continue to express their gratitude.

Both friends and strangers reached out to those whose homes were in jeopardy or lost, offering them a place to stay and food to eat.

Many local restaurants chose a day to donate all their proceeds to those affected by the fire, playing their role in the contributions to those affected and those who worked to save the homes of so many.

The Oak Park Unified School District created a GoFundMe page that raised over $115,000 for students and families in the community who lost their homes. The school has continued to reach out to students who lost everything, offering them lunch, supplies and support.

Oak Park has proven itself to be capable of rising above trivial matters that would otherwise divide us, to become a unified force for good. We must continue to show this kindness and comfort when tragedy occurs.

This human kindness is powerful action, especially as we recover.

Unfortunately, Oak Park’s kindness to all isn’t an accurate representation of the rest of our nation. We currently live in a state of disarray fueled by political opposition. The problem is that political party loyalty has been perceived as more important than making real change.

Despite disagreeing on how to achieve it, the one thing that all Americans desire is safety. This right owed to citizens of a modern country has been stolen due to mass shootings and natural disasters occurring at an almost unprecedented level.

To solve this issue, the country must move forward in a way similar to the actions our community took, by putting political affiliations aside and recognizing each other as humans in need – not political opponents.

For too long we’ve used a black and white mentality to find certainty and validation with like-minded groups of people. But, human lives need to come before being right, before party affiliation. As humans, our first goal should be to care for our neighbor. Whether that tragedy we face is a fire, or shootings, it doesn’t matter. It SHOULDN’T matter.

It’s time to stop looking at our community’s safety as a partisan issue and time to recognize it as a right for everyone, solvable by everyone.

Let’s put aside our differences and look at members from the opposite party as we do members of our community, and find solutions that will guarantee each and every family, friend and community member’s safety.