Our View | What Defines Us: The Spirit of a Community

Illustration by Jim Madsen, a Saugus resident and parent of a Saugus High School graduate.

By The Signal Editorial Board

When an earthquake wreaked destruction upon the Santa Clarita Valley in 1994, the biggest takeaway was how the community pulled together in a time of crisis. 

Strangers supported and comforted each other, neighbors helped each other, and the entire community came together in a spirit of mutual recovery. 

The earthquake didn’t define us 25 years ago. The spirit of the community did. 

That spirit remains today. 

In the wake of the tragic Nov. 14 shooting that left three Saugus High School students dead, three more wounded and many thousands of hearts broken, we have seen this community pull together once more. 

From the vigil that packed Central Park a week ago, to the shows of support from other high schools that would normally consider Saugus a crosstown rival, to the many individuals, businesses and even support dogs that helped provide comfort — we have seen what this community is made of. 

Hugs. Shoulders to cry on. Tributes. Well-thought-out distractions. Fundraising drives to help families torn by the loss of a child. 

Carefully planned campus events to help students heal and recover because, at some point, in the aftermath of every trauma, everyone has to roll up their sleeves and go back to doing what they do. 

Since Nov. 14, this community has been focused on taking care of loved ones, friends, colleagues — anyone affected by what happened in the quad at Saugus High School. 

It affected different people to different degrees. Those most devastated are of course the families, friends and loved ones of those who died. Our hearts go out to all of them. 

This shooting also affected so many thousands of others — from the kids who were wounded, or witnessed it, to the first responders to the faculty members and students who spent a seeming eternity on lockdown, not knowing whether an active shooter was still on campus. 

Through it all, we saw these things reinforced:

We are a great community of caring and giving people. Everyone should be proud of the response from the community after the tragic events of last week — from the William S. Hart Union High School District to the students and staff, the first responders and the Sheriff’s Department and Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. The city of Santa Clarita, too, stepped up to the plate and helped the community in numerous ways, from helping with parent-student reunification at Central Park in the hours after the shooting to taking the lead role in coordinating the powerful vigil attended by thousands at the park three days later.

And, the local residents and businesses who banded together to donate and offer aid and comfort wherever needed.

We should all be proud of the way this city responded to this tragic challenge. This community acted and reacted with class and dignity in a daunting situation.

But we must not allow the events of last week to define our city. The shooting is not who we are. How this community of nearly 300,000 people reacted to it —that’s who we are.

We must remain positive. We must continue to do great things and help our neighbors.

Yes, we will have some crime, as will any community with a population this size. Yes, we will have some homelessness, and yes, we will have those among us who face mental health issues.

But again, that is not who we are.

None of this means we forget the victims or the tragic events of last week. We will never forget. We will learn lessons from this tragedy and get even better. We must continue to work as a community and build a safe, strong Santa Clarita.

The community support this past week has been remarkable, as the entire valley cared for our own, and united behind #SaugusStrong. 

That’s what we want to take away from this. A shooting doesn’t define our community. Our community’s spirit does. 

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