'A Lot To Process': California College Students Cope With Wildfire, Thousand Oaks Shooting09:44
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Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)MoreCloseclosemore
Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Justin Meek, a 23-year-old recent graduate of California Lutheran University, was among the 12 people killed in the Nov. 7 shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar during a popular college night.

Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Cal Lutheran classmates Jordan Erickson and Gabrielle Reublin about the shooting, and the Woolsey Fire that forced thousands to evacuate their homes. They were part of a group of students rehearsing a play about the Columbine shooting when they received text alerts about the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill.

Erickson says the events of the past two weeks have been "a lot to process." He says he was completely shocked when he first found out the shooting was happening.

"The first thing that crosses my mind is just pure disbelief because this is, you know, Thousand Oaks. Nothing ever happens here," Erickson says. "This is like one of the safest cities in America."

Erickson and Meeks were friends and sang together in the CLU choir, but Reublin says she had only met him once. Still, he had a legacy at the school.

"I had always heard about him," Reublin says. "He was just someone people always talked about being super kind and generous."

Interview Highlights

Erickson: "One of our mutual friends had put it on his Instagram story and was just live recording him going through the whole thing. But he mentioned Justin being shot, and I was just a mess because there's actually a line in 'columbinus' that perfectly describes what we were going through. It's, 'You don't want to jump to conclusions, and you're just hoping that everyone is OK.' And I was frantically calling and texting trying to get a hold of Justin because I was scared, and I wanted to make sure that he was OK."

"The hills are all burned. I mean, it's quite crazy just going to your neighborhood and passing by houses that are completely destroyed."

Gabrielle Reublin

On evacuating the Woolsey Fire

Gabrielle Reublin: "We had to evacuate on Thursday night, and fires have always come close to our house. We live right near the mountains, but we've never had to evacuate. So that was kind of scary. We have four dogs, so it was a lot of packing up, and we just had to get out quick, and then we just went into [Los Angeles] and stayed at my dad's office. And the fires did go into our neighborhood. Our house was luckily saved, and we are so blessed for that.

"The hills are all burned. I mean, it's quite crazy just going to your neighborhood and passing by houses that are completely destroyed."

Erickson: "My parents also had to evacuate, but we were thankful that our house was safe."

On the debate over whether to perform "columbinus" after the shooting 

Reublin: "Well, originally we were doing this to spread awareness to Thousand Oaks, which at that time had not had a tragedy like this. But then tragedy happened, and we felt this was even more important to do. And also we felt that some people in the community, those who are ready enough, could come and this could be a process of grieving for them, especially for us as well because our show isn't just shooting, shooting, shooting, gruesome, you know. It's about what happened beforehand and then the aftermath of a shooting. And we were in the aftermath of a shooting, so we thought that this could help people go through this process."

"I think doing this show and having that explicit outlet was really helpful in that I got to kind of process my grief on the stage."

Jordan Erickson

On how doing the play helped process the shooting

Erickson: "The way this show works is the first half really delves into the dynamics of archetypes in high school and how people are isolated, and how that sort of plays into how the shooting happened. And then the second act is more documentary style about how different people's lives were affected. The parents of the perpetrators, the parents of the victims, police, clergy, reporters, all types of people and how they were all affected. So I think what helped me the most was personally I'm not the best person at expressing my feelings and handling them in a super productive way, so I think doing this show and having that explicit outlet was really helpful in that I got to kind of process my grief on the stage, and in doing that, share it with the audience."

On singing at Justin Meek's memorial service 

Erickson: "A bunch of members from the current Kingsman Quartet and from past years of the Kingsman Quartet got together and sang a song called, 'Ride The Chariot,' which I got to sing with him when we were both in the quartet. And then the entire CLU choir sang a song. It's kind of like a mashup of two songs called, 'I Love You,' and 'What a Wonderful World,' which my freshman year in the choir, he had the solo in. So the way that we did that was really special at the memorial. We had a video of him singing the beginning of the song when the solo is with that year's choir and then the current choir and other members of the community picked up the song, when the ensemble came in and finished the song. So it was really cathartic I think to be able to get to sing with him one last time.

"I had to excuse myself near the end of the service because I just, I had to take a moment at the end there."


Marcelle Hutchins and Robin Young produced this interview and edited it for broadcast. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on November 21, 2018.

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