The events of Thursday, Nov. 14, are indescribable. Immeasurable pain and devastation fill the hearts of everyone in our community as we continue to mourn lives lost and pray for the continued healing of those recovering from their wounds.
Everyone in Santa Clarita is either personally affected by this tragedy or knows someone who was. Families lost loved ones. Saugus High School students were wounded, or lost a friend or saw the violence unfold in front of their eyes.
Our younger kids in elementary and junior high school were placed on lockdown – huddled under desks not knowing what was happening but feeling the fear and sadness from their teachers and parents. Family members frantically tried to get in touch with nieces, nephews and grandchildren who attend Saugus High. I thank goodness that I was able to find out almost immediately that my granddaughter was safe, but I can absolutely imagine the horror of parents and families not being able to get in touch with their children right away.
No matter where you live in Santa Clarita, we are all impacted and it means that each of us can lean on our friends and neighbors to find strength within ourselves and our network of loved ones.
This past Sunday, Saugus High School, the Saugus community, the William S. Hart Union High School District, the city of Santa Clarita and those with ties to the Santa Clarita Valley from around the world took the first step toward healing at the Saugus Strong Vigil at Central Park. The more than 10,000 in attendance at the park and tens of thousands who watched online are proof that our community is united.
Despair is beginning to give way to hope. It was heartening to look out at those gathered and see the love, compassion and support our residents have for one another.
I want to personally thank each speaker and performer at the vigil for their strength and courage. We learned more about Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell through moving tributes from their families and friends. Principal Vince Ferry brought the community together by putting words to our emotions – showing that while we feel grief, anger and confusion, we can also begin to heal through our strength, hope and love.
The 200-plus students from schools throughout the William S. Hart Union High School District, who formed a district-wide choir, touched our hearts with their performance and once again showed that we are all part of the same Santa Clarita family.
I want to thank the faith leaders in Santa Clarita – not only those who prayed over the victims, families, residents and first responders, but also those who opened the doors of their facilities to livestream the event for families and provide counseling services to those in need.
Thousands of T-shirts – designed by Saugus High students – were funded by a variety of Santa Clarita businesses and distributed at the vigil. Community groups brought blue ribbons for us to wear as well.
Organizations throughout the city also donated food, coffee, hot cocoa and other items for the vigil. Additionally, a donation of 10,000 glow sticks in Saugus High’s blue and white colors made for an inspiring sight throughout the evening.
It is most important to thank the Saugus High School family for uniting in support of one another. We stand with you and want you to know that we will get through this together.
If you have not done so, I encourage you to visit a new website that was developed by the city as a central landing place for resources, support services and information for the entire community. This website – SaugusStrong.org – is a place where individuals from around the world are leaving messages of support for the victims, students, staff and families of Saugus High, as well as Santa Clarita as a whole.
As we continue to process last week’s events and begin to heal, please take the time to hug your children, friends and neighbors and let them know how much they mean to you. We are the guiding light for those around us.
We are Santa Clarita and we are Saugus Strong!
Marsha McLean is the mayor of the city of Santa Clarita and can be reached at [email protected].