ITOW: Kaelin Mendez

In Their Own Words-9799.jpg

It was fun until it wasn’t. That’s what I told people who asked me how it was to shelter-in-place on Friday, November 9th. On Thursday night, I attended a worship service that honored Alaina Housley, a Pepperdine freshman who died in the Borderline shooting, and the other Borderline victims. While there, my roommate called me to let me know that there was a possibility we would have to shelter in place soon. He told me to prepare a bag and just be ready. I put aside my laptop, camera and a few changes of clothes that I could grab if we did need to go to the gym like we were supposed to in shelter-in-place situations.

I woke up at seven on Friday morning to my friend banging on our door, telling us that Malibu had started to evacuate, so we should probably get ready to shelter-in-place, too. Minutes later, one of our dorm building’s resident advisors came in to tell us that shelter-in-place was enacted, and we needed to head to the gym. Overall, it was fun. For most of the day, I was surrounded with friends and the Pepperdine and Malibu communities. Although power was limited, we found ways to entertain ourselves. Young children ran around, students played games and laughed, and no one really worried. We were assured that the buildings we were in could withstand the fire and, due to the traffic on Pacific Coast Highway, campus was the safest place to be. Later that night, I was to be one of those people that left campus.

In the afternoon, we got a message that the shelter-in-place had been lifted, so I went back to my dorm to shower. One of my friends picked me up in her car and took me to our campus newsroom so I wouldn’t have to walk with the air quality being what it was at that time. I had left many of my chargers in the newsroom from the day before when the newspaper staff was covering the Borderline shooting. My friend dropped me back off at my dorm, and we found out that the shelter-in-place was re-enacted. She said that her car was running low on gas and asked if I could pick her up from her dorm later since we had to meet up with the other newspaper staff members that were covering the fire. We found out the next morning that her car had burned during the night.

The makeshift newspaper staff—two writers and one of our advisors—had set up a workspace in a hallway above the Waves Café, our school’s cafeteria. There were also a few off-campus editors that were still active, as well as the friend I drove—an on-camera reporter—and me—a photographer. We later moved to an office in the Office of Accessibility. As Jeff Baker, a professor at Pepperdine, tweeted, we had set up a “guerilla newsroom.”

It wasn’t until the smoke could be smelled in the buildings that the seriousness of the whole situation set in. I knew that even if we were safe from the flames, I would be breathing in smoke all night long, so it was best to leave. I heard later that people had to sleep with masks on. I ended up leaving twenty minutes or so before the first flames were seen over the hills. After I made it home to Cerritos, I stepped out of my car and just breathed in the air. My parents said they were glad I was home. I was, too. MM

Holly Bieler