Over a winter break meant for relaxation and time with family and friends, two tragedies shook the Oklahoma Christian University community.
On Christmas Day, sophomore Aliyah Masumbu suffered an asthma attack and died unexpectedly. The 19-year-old criminal justice major from Wichita, KS, “brought light and laughter towards friends and family,” according to a GoFundMe page created to cover funeral costs and other expenses. The Talon plans to publish a full story about Masumbu’s life and legacy on Wednesday morning.
While I did not know Aliyah personally, the people I have spoken to who did describe her as bubbly and cheerful, the kind of person who lights up a room and makes a small campus like Oklahoma Christian better. Losing a valued member of the student body, especially in such an unexpected way, hurts.
Just days later on Sunday, Dec. 29, a shooter opened fire at the West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. An armed member of the church security team shot and killed the gunman just six seconds after he opened fire, likely saving countless lives. However, two church members—67-year-old Richard White and 64-year-old Tony Wallace—were shot and killed.
There are notable Oklahoma Christian connections to the West Freeway congregation. As Co-Features Editor Reese Gorman noted in an article published yesterday, several family members of junior Andrew Biggers are members at West Freeway but were not in attendance that particular Sunday. While no longer a member, sophomore Jake Jennings got to know White when he attended the church as a teenager.
The Church of Christ fellowship is tight-knit, so there are inevitably connections not known to myself or other members of the Talon staff. But regardless of if you knew the victims or any members of the church, a shooting like this hits incredibly close to home. I know my first thoughts after learning about the shooting were, “do I know anyone who goes to church there?” and “that could have been me.”
These instances of tragedy serve as a sobering reminder that life can be taken away at any moment. This fresh start we enjoy at the beginning of a new year is a privilege—not a guarantee—no matter your age or health status.
Oklahoma Christian knows how to do well in times of celebration and happiness. We rally together at Homecoming and Spring Sing to chant and sing and be happy. We gather together for things like Lighting of the Commons, intramural games and candle lightings. Can we now be there for each other not in a time a celebration, but a time of grief and suffering? I believe so.
Over my time at Oklahoma Christian, a great emphasis has been placed on mental health and seeking help through programs like U!Shine and services like the counseling center. The student body is increasingly aware of issues like depression and anxiety and that really, no person is feeling good all the time. Yet, many people still feel an unspoken pressure to remain happy and put together all the time.
We as a campus community need to be present and lean on each other during this challenging time. While these are difficult, unexpected and unfortunate circumstances, they can be made better when we come together. Isolation is not the answer, community is.
Editor’s note: A candlelight memorial service in honor of Aliyah Masumbu will take place tonight from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Lawson Commons.