On the roads leading to a Napa cemetery, hundreds of residents lined the curbs Sunday afternoon to honor Alaina Housley one last time — and show solidarity with her family after the 18-year-old’s death in the Thousand Oaks shooting.
An escort of patrol cars from Napa Police and the Napa County Sheriff’s Department accompanied Housley to Tulocay Cemetery, a procession police announced Saturday on Facebook. In response, throngs lined the Silverado Trail and Coombsville Road — some holding flowers, others bearing heart-shaped cutouts on poles, and still others carrying message boards attacking gun violence of the kind that claimed Housley and 11 others Wednesday night at a the Borderline Bar & Grill, a popular Western bar in Ventura County.
“She always had a smile on her face,” her former Vintage classmate Sophia Green started to say before tearing up on the Coombsville Road sidewalk. “Alaina was a very smart, caring person.”
“We wanted to make sure to pay our respects and show our support,” said another onlooker, Anne Schmidbauer. “It definitely hits closer to home when it’s one of our own from Napa.”
Numerous boys and girls in the crowds lining Coombsville Road sported the red or lime-green jerseys of Napa United, the youth soccer program whose vice president of player and coach development is Arik Housley, Alaina’s father.
“For the boys, it was important to show their support for the Housleys,” said Napa United volunteer coordinator Silvia Angel beside three uniform-wearing players on the roadside.
The local portion of the procession began Sunday at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters south of Napa, then continued into the city on Soscol, Silverado and Coombsville, according to Sgt. Chris Pacheco of the Sheriff’s Office. One member each from the police and sheriff’s departments had made the trip north from Ventura County.
The escort from local law enforcement agencies was the latest in a string of tributes to Housley, who graduated in June from Vintage and was in her freshman year at Pepperdine University in Malibu.
The mourning was mixed with indignation for others awaiting Housley’s final return to her hometown. A cluster of onlookers held up bright green signs proclaiming #AlainasVoice and also demanding a solution to the country’s near-constant rounds of mass murders in a single word: #ENOUGH.
During memorial vigils Thursday at Pepperdine, Yountville and the Vintage campus, classmates, friends and community members described Housley not only as a first-rate student, leader and athlete but as an empathetic friend quick to place the good of others above her own.
“We all have an opportunity to think about what parts of Alaina we can be more like,” Vintage principal Sarah O’Connor said at an on-campus memorial Thursday night. “So that forever, Alaina Housley is with us.”
Housley will again be honored Monday morning at The Heroes March, which will begin at 10 a.m. at Memorial Stadium in Napa and recognize all people who have been affected by gun violence. (The Napa Valley Unified School District has no classes scheduled for the day.)
Shortly after 3:45 p.m., the crowd’s attention was captured by a flash of light, and then another, appearing at the foot of the hill on Coombsville Road. Two patrol SUVs appeared with lights flashing, followed by a high-roofed van and then more police and sheriff’s cars.
Applause rippled up the roadsides, the clapping becoming nearly rhythmic as spectators’ eyes followed the escort up Coombsville Road. As the vehicles finally inched their way between Tulocay’s iron gates, the wordless clapping slowly ebbed until, inside the cemetery, all was silence again.