Wishing They Were Here
Several of our Scotland-based followers (and others) have asked and there’s lots of info to share, so it’s time to put everything I know in one place. This has been an absolutely horrendous week for alumni of the Pepperdine Scotland project and for the entire Pepperdine University Theatre Department and your concern and well wishes have been much appreciated.
On Wednesday night a gunman entered a country line dancing bar/club about 20 miles Northwest of Pepperdine University and killed 12 people, injuring others. It was “College Night” so a number of Pepperdine students were present and an 18 year old first year was among the fatalities. No theatre students were present, due in part to the fact that the departmental musical was due to open today, meaning most were in technical and dress rehearsals until late at night. However, Alaina Housley was a member of the university choir and thereby part of the very close-knit performing arts community at Pepperdine.
Theatre students (and the rest of the University) spent Thursday reeling. Apartments were turned into open houses and support centres, phone numbers were freely exchanged for “anyone who needs to talk,” and the community tried to process what just happened. But by bedtime some were already being dragged into the next crisis.
Thursday Night Fire Evacuations
Two major wildfires sprung up in the vicinity of the university between Thursday and Friday, and by 10.30pm on Thursday night evacuation orders were in place that affected at least one apartment complex popular with commuter students. Alumni from the inaugural Pepperdine Scotland 2012 right through to 2018 were involved in the evacuations. This was 9-10 miles North of Pepperdine, so at least some evacuees relocated to the university campus.
Those who managed to sleep on Thursday night woke to find that today would prove to be a further trial. Throughout the night a number of other nearby neighbourhoods were evacuated, affecting more commuter students, departmental staff, and the families of students who grew up nearby. By early morning the university campus itself was under threat and all on site were ordered to ‘shelter in place’ in the cafeteria and/or the gymnasium (this is standard evac procedure at Pepperdine and ensures that only select areas must be defended in the event of a standoff with a blaze).
South and West
During the morning evacuation students learned (or rather received confirmation) that the first performance of their musical would not go ahead tonight. The Santa Ana Winds were particularly fierce today, blowing the (nearest) fire south to the sea, but well to the West of Pepperdine. The coastal scene there is dire and (according to a twitter user with a police scanner) may result in a significant number of casualties.
Once the initial push of the fire skirted the campus, students were allowed to return to residence halls to shower and re-pack in case further action was required. Their respite would be short-lived.
Around midday local time the #WoolseyFire started gaining significant ground to the Southeast of its origin point, triggering a slew of new evacuations directly upwind of the Pepperdine campus. The university’s evacuation order was reinstated.
It’s now past midnight in Glasgow so I’m signing off. At this point I think if the fire has any more significant effect on the university and/or our Pepperdine Scotland students you’ll find updates via official news channels. Otherwise please assume all are safely ‘sheltering in place’ and awaiting the opportunity to return to their residences. Your thoughts and well wishes are much appreciated.
I’m not a journalist. I’m 5000 miles away. I’m not even working on anything with the students at the moment. Fact check me before taking anything I’ve said as truth. That said, here are my main sources:
- Pepperdine Emergency Updates – official info from the University.
- Ventura County Fire “High Value” Twitter Accounts – a subscription list of accounts tweeting about the fires. It seems like a mix of official emergency services accounts, journalists, and either hobbyist police scanner or ham radio operators. I’ve found the hobbyists to be the most helpful, accurate, and up to date throughout the day, but I gather that emergency services may be working with Twitter to shut down these accounts. There are numerous valid public safety reasons for emergency services to withhold their radio communications from the public, so please don’t alter your plans based on tweets from scanner accounts: they are FYI only and if you are told to evacuate you should do so immediately.
- Fire Maps – Mostly too slow to be of much use for me, but potentially helpful if you’re checking in less often. I’m also using google maps a lot to search street names mentioned in radio scanner tweets.
- Facebook – No link here, but some of what I’ve written has come from or been confirmed by Pepperdine Theatre and Pepperdine Scotland private groups.
- Wind Report – really just this or any other weather report which includes wind. Hugely significant in these types of situations.
By the time of writing over 95,000 people have been evacuated. By comparison, Pepperdine, Pepperdine Theatre, and especially Pepperdine Scotland are miniscule. These events will affect our former and future students for years to come, but a big part of the Pepperdine Scotland project is about recognising, understanding, and being good stewards of our privilege. In that light it’s important to acknowledge that while it’s a terrible week to be a Pepperdine student there are a lot of people in the immediate vicinity and further afield who have it a lot worse. Please also keep those people in your thoughts alongside our students and staff.
If Only They Were Here
I’m writing at the end of a cool, dark, and wet evening. Wildfire is the last worry on my mind for Glasgow tonight. I find myself thinking, “if only they were here,” as though that would solve everything. But I know that’s not the point. It’s not about California vs. Scotland, it’s about the world we’re handing over to this generation.
By numbers I’m young enough to group myself with them, but when I think back on my time as an undergraduate in contrast to the last week I can’t help but note that I never once considered the possibility of getting shot in my decisions about what to do with my evenings. Present and future students will.
I hoped that wildfires might cancel or delay my exams, but I never truly wondered if my educational institution would still be standing in the morning. Present and future students will.
I might be the eldest to grow up in the reality of their world, but these students are the first to grow up UNDERSTANDING that reality. Imagine trying to get an education in those circumstances…
Pepperdine Scotland 2020
We were supposed to sign a commission contract with our 2020 playwright very soon. That has obviously been delayed so announcements will have to wait too. We’re looking forward to premiering another new work as usual though.
Thanks for keeping up with us. Best wishes to you and yours and we hope to see you soon!
UPDATE 11 November, 2pm GMT