I was in my friend’s dorm room when the power went out on December 4th, 2017, the day the Thomas Fire started. At the time we did not think that this far-away fire could possibly affect our community. The smoke started to settle over our campus in the next few days, and by December 7th, classes had been cancelled because of air quality. I grabbed a few of my things and went home for the weekend. I assumed that I would by back after the weekend for finals. But while I was home, finals were cancelled, and the campus was fully evacuated. There were a few scary days over Christmas break when no one knew whether or not campus was going to burn. Thanks to the hard work of many dedicated people, the Westmont College campus as well as all faculty and staff were safe.
PHOTO: ELLIE JOLLY
Classes resumed as scheduled in January. We invited several community members to campus to thank them for all they did to keep our campus safe. The very next day on January 9th, there was a devastating debris flow. We evacuated campus for a week because of a water shortage. Throughout the semester we were under county mandatory evacuation orders three more times, and Westmont instituted a Shelter Activated for Flood Emergencies Plan where students were allowed to remain on campus with classes cancelled.
The tumult of the semester as well as the pain felt by our community took their toll on all of us in different ways.
This was the weight that I brought with me to my internship at ICTG. I had a lot of questions that I started asking. How do we take care of ourselves? How does a college take care of their students in the midst of such pain and unknown? How can a specifically Christian college appropriately engage in the local community after such a trauma? How do we talk about what we have experienced?
This semester I am researching trauma-informed higher education practices, specifically at Westmont. I am interviewing faculty, staff, and students to learn more about different experiences and practices within the past year. I also am conducting research on best practices within trauma informed higher education. I hope to create a tip sheet for college students that provides a few strategies for Calming, Care, and Community in the midst of trauma. Please continue to check back in for updates on my semester.
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From 2012-2020, this blog space explored the changing landscape of long-term care.