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Isla Vista Continues to Heal

By Jaden Gill, Managing Editor

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A wooden peace sign was hung in front of the IV Deli Mart where a student was fatally shot on the night of May 23rd 2014. The names of victims George Chen, Katie Cooper, James Hong, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, David Wang, and Veronika Weiss were written across it.
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Throughout the month of May, the Santa Barbara community has been coming together to celebrate the lives that were taken during the horrific 2014 Isla Vista shooting.

After the tragic loss of 6 students including George Chen, Katie Cooper, James Hong, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, David Wang, and Veronika Weiss, the families and friends of the victims began to actively promote gun safety and attempt to heal.

On the evening of May 24th, 2014—following the traumatic incident— students and Santa Barbarans gathered in Storke Plaza before walking through the streets of Isla Vista in a candlelight vigil to remember the victims.

In May of 2017, the locals gathered once again through a series of planned and unplanned ceremonies from simple altars to an evening paddle out, in honor of those affected on the infamous anniversary.

The commemorations began earlier this month on May 6th with a “Lite the Nite” ceremony in which the Isla Vista community met with blue LED lights in People’s Park to symbolize solidarity through light. This was followed by a week-long remembrance event involving the folding of paper cranes that are now displayed on campus in the Student Resource Building.

Several more events took place in IV including a second annual two day conference as well as a photography showcase on May 22nd featuring panelists from the May 23rd, 2014 Isla Vista Memorial Archive Project. These were followed by Show Your Pride Day in which students were urged to wear blue and gold all day to reiterate their gaucho pride.

Finally, on May 23rd, students and community members joined together, as they did three years prior, in Anisq’Oyo’ Park to remember those who died or were injured in 2014 and acknowledge the strength and adversity of UC Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara community.

Several families of the victims were among the guests at the gathering, including Kelly Wang, mother of George Chen, Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Michael-Martinez, and Colleen Weiss, mother of Veronika Weiss. All three of the parents delivered intense, but hopeful speeches.

“As a victim’s mother there is a heart wrenching pain that will never go away in my life,” Wang said. “Despite the overwhelming sadness, I follow the call to help others. To my surprise, because of that, I was able to discover new meanings of my own life.”

Christopher’s father then shared a heartwarming story of how his son went sky diving, behind his parents back, a few months prior to his death.

“He never told us that he went skydiving and we never heard anything about it, but that video is the last thing I have that shows him alive,” Martinez said. “So I don’t know what the lesson is in that for all you young people, but I can tell you I’m grateful that he did it.”

A plethora of guest speakers continued to take the Anisq’Oyo’ Park stage as those listening held blue electronic candle lights to emphasize unification and peace.

A paddle out organized by the UC Santa Barbara Surf Team brought out many on the evening after the official anniversary for a floating memorial at campus point beach in front of the lagoon.

The matter is one close to the hearts and minds of many in Santa Barbara, and while the deadly incident of May 23rd, 2014 was more than devastating, Isla Vista shows sustained strength, while simultaneously using the tragedy to speak out against gun violence and continue the ongoing process of healing.

 

 

 

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Isla Vista Continues to Heal