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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 4:24 am | Light Rain 60º


UCSB, Community Grieve at Memorial Service for Victims of Isla Vista Rampage

More than 20,000 people pack into Harder Stadium to honor the lives of those who died in last week's mass killing spree

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Tuesday was a community-wide day of mourning and remembrance for the victims of Friday’s deadly rampage in Isla Vista.

Six students from UC Santa Barbara were killed and nine more were injured, along with four other people who have not been identified by law enforcement.

UCSB’s Harder Stadium was filled with more than 20,000 grieving students, university faculty and staff, and community members who came to honor and remember George Chen, Katherine Cooper, Cheng Yuan "James" Hong, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, Weihan "David" Wang and Veronika Weiss.

On Friday night, a violent sequence of events led to the deaths of seven people, including shooter Elliot Rodger, and 13 more injured. Rodger, a 22-year-old off-and-on Santa Barbara City College student, drove through Isla Vista in his late-model BMW coupe, shooting passersby with semi-automatic weapons and hitting several people with his car.

Later, authorities found three young men — Chen, Hong and Wang — stabbed to death in Rodger’s apartment on Seville Road in Isla Vista. Two of the men are listed on the home’s lease with Rodger, according to law enforcement.

Tuesday’s memorial service put aside the desperate search for answers and focused on the devastating loss to the families and the entire UCSB and Isla Vista community.

“Watching this terrible disaster unfold in minutes was a terrifying and unreal and hopeless experience, but after talking to so many young people in the following days, we clergy have been struck by their refusal to despair and give up,” said the Rev. John Love, a pastor with St. Mark's University Parish in Isla Vista. “On the contrary, we have seen and witnessed inner strength and kindness when it might be easier to become bitter and angry.”

UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang commended the compassion and courage of students, first responders, doctors and surgeons, and the many others who helped through this difficult time. He canceled classes on Tuesday to give the campus time to grieve together.

Yang gave special thanks to the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, sheriff’s deputies and UCSB Police for acting quickly and courageously to prevent even further tragedy.

The entire UCSB family is heartbroken with the loss of six students, “who were taken from us so suddenly and so terribly,” Yang said. “It’s true that many dark and difficult days lie ahead, but we will continue to draw strength and comfort from each other and we will become an even stronger university and community.”

UCSB memorial
More than 20,000 students, faculty and community members attended Tuesday's memorial service in Harder Stadium. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

The shooter was apparently targeting a sorority house, Alpha Phi, and killed two members of the Tri Delta sorority who were outside the home, according to law enforcement.

UCSB’s Greek Life organizations are mourning all of the victims, not just the loss of two sorority sisters, said Kristin Van Ramshorst, UCSB’s director of fraternities and sororities.

“Today, you are all our brothers and sisters, and we stand in solidarity with the entire Isla Vista community,” she said.

Three of the families decided to make statements at Tuesday’s memorial service, sharing their grief and hopes for a more peaceful world.

Richard Martinez, the father of Michaels-Martinez, read two statements and then one of his own.

Wang’s parents promised his sacrifices weren’t in vain: “Your sacrifices will awake the power and authority of America,” they wrote. “It’s time to stop the gun violence. Our children deserve a land free from fear.”

They described him as gentle, kind, loving, joyful, peaceful, faithful and self-controlled.

“Thank you, son," they wrote. "We will learn to love people, the rest of our lives, as you did. Let us pray for everyone who lost their loved ones, including the young man who killed our son.”

The family of Hong also wrote a statement: “I saw my son in a dream last night and he asked me to give you this message. My time at UCSB was the happiest two years of my life. I love all my friends who stayed with me through good and bad. I wanted to stay here forever with everyone. I know that there is still great injustice in the world and policies that can be improved. I cannot help with this anymore, but you can. Please love and appreciate everyone around you.”

In closing, they gave blessings to everyone impacted by this tragedy, including Rodgers’ family.

“May we together form a peaceful world and let hatred be gone with the wind,” Hong’s family wrote.

When Martinez spoke for himself, he was less composed. He spoke out before a Sheriff’s Department press conference to place blame with politicians and the powerful gun lobby in his son’s death.

On Tuesday, he reminded the crowd that his beliefs aren’t shared by all the victims’ families, but he isn’t alone in his anger.

“This situation has gone on far too long, we all know it,” he said. “How many more people are going to have to die in this situation before the problem gets solved?”

When a member of Congress called him Monday (he wouldn’t say which one), he told them their condolences were unacceptable until they went back to the House of Representatives and “actually did something,” he said. “They have done nothing, and that’s why Chris died.”

Martinez said he wants to send a message, and he asked people who agreed with him to shout “loud enough that they hear it in Washington, D.C.”

There was shouting of “Not one more!” in unison from all over the stadium, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation and started chanting “not one more” after he left the podium.

As of Tuesday night, his hashtag #NotOneMore was trending on Twitter, meaning there was a large amount of activity and posts using that hashtag.

University of California president Janet Napolitano said that each one of the victims left a mark on the world and should be remembered for who they were.

“Their individuality should not be obscured by the aggregate of their shared deaths,” she said. “Think of the lives we mourn as poems — abbreviated, yes, but eloquated in their own unique flourishes.”

The community may never fully understand this weekend’s tragedy, but the focus now needs to be on remembering the victims and the moments had with them, Associated Students president Ali Guthy said.

“We will mourn together and find strength in the community we share,” she said.

“There’s one thing I know for sure: We have a spirit and resilience in our community that can never be taken from us. We remember them.”

Kum-Kum Bhavnani, a UCSB sociology professor and chair of the Academic Senate faculty organization, spoke about the struggle to understand this “massacre” and help students through this difficult time.

“Our children. Dead. Misogyny. Unhappiness. Disturbed. Guns. How can we collectively understand this massacre? Why do we have to understand it?”

As faculty, “we guide you, we mentor you, we revel in your curiosity about the world,” she said. “As we teach you we see the sparkle in your eyes that tell us you love being students. We see the look when you think we’re being boring. We care about you,” she said.

“How can we all survive this?” she said.

For more information about counseling services, UCSB has set up a call center at 805.893.3901 for community members and parents with questions. Professional counseling services are available on campus at the Student Resource Building and there is a 24/7 hotline number at 805.893.4411.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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