The death of Shannon Collins on May 7 has prompted a public outpouring of shock and sorrow that’s impossible to ignore. On Monday, May 14, a week after she was stabbed to death in broad daylight by a troubled and violent man she didn’t know, some 300 community members organized by Take Back Santa Cruz walked from the scene of the murder to her shop, Camouflage, on Pacific Avenue, completing the walk she wasn’t able to. Neighbors of the block on Broadway where the murder happened held a memorial on Sunday, and before that friends and family gathered there Friday for a vigil. Hundreds of people—some who knew the 38-year-old Collins, many who did not—have signed online memorials and weighed in on Facebook. The Sin Sisters Burlesque donated the proceeds of their Saturday show to the Collins family. The Rio Theatre put her name on its marquee.
One reading of this unprecedented display of public grieving is that the attack was so random. The details are chilling in their ordinariness: a woman gets her hair done on a Monday morning before going to work, then walks to her shop. It’s a lovely, sunny day. And then, in the space of a single block and a few seconds, her life ends. Not because of bad choices she made, not because of a character flaw that shaped her fate, but because that block at that moment turned out to be the wrong place and the wrong time. It israndom, and it thwarts our need to make sense of things, and so it jars us deeply.
Yet innocent people have died on our streets before, also randomly, and their passing did not provoke this response. Maybe another reading of this public grief is that a new sense of community is coalescing here, one aided by shared hard times and the sense that something—maybe everything—about the way we’ve been living in this city, this nation, this world, is up for reinvention. It doesn’t make this tragedy any more acceptable, but it’s something.