Campus faculty and local residents gather in Harder Stadium to commemorate and honor victims of Friday’s tragedy
[Update: This article has been revised to include additional photos.]
Members of campus and University-wide officials, faculty and Isla Vista community representatives spoke at a memorial service dedicated to the victims of Friday’s shooting yesterday at Harder Stadium, organized by UCSB administration and attended by approximately 20,000 people.
At the memorial, newly sworn-in Associated Students President Ali Guthy delivered a statement on behalf of students and Richard Martinez, father of victim Christopher Michaels-Martinez, rallied the audience to campaign for stronger gun control in light of perpetrator Elliot Rodger’s legal ownership of three semi-automatic handguns. In addition, campus a cappella groups VocalMotion and Brothas from Otha Mothas performed a few songs in between speeches. Despite a tweet from the Westboro Baptist Church claiming they would protest the memorial, no members appeared at the stadium.
Chancellor Henry T. Yang read out a list of the six who died, all UCSB students, and asked that people remember them and those injured.
“As we grieve, we also remember the joy and the light they brought into this world. We are privileged to count them part of a UC Santa Barbara family,” Yang said. “It is true that many dark and difficult days lie ahead, but we will continue to draw strength and comforts from each other and we will become an even stronger university and community.”
Yang also stated his appreciation for the police’s role in responding to the shootings, which the audience received with abundant applause.
“We wanted to especially thank the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, UC police officers and the sheriff’s deputies for acting quickly and courageously to protect our students and residents to prevent an even greater tragedy,” Yang said.
UC President Janet Napolitano said despite the violent nature of their deaths, the six victims should be remembered based on what they did in life rather than the way they died.
“It’s important that in our grief, in our grasping for any glimmer of understanding into what can only be seen as unfathomable tragedy, it is important that we not lose sight of the lives we have gathered to remember,” Napolitano said. “It is important that we do not let the arithmetic of this atrocity define them.”
Guthy, the only student to speak at the memorial, said although she and other members of the community would want to understand more about Rodger’s motives in committing the murders, the victims and community response should be placed above all else.
“Answering these questions is not and should not be our focus. In these precious moments, as we come together to seek solace and share that which connects us to one another, there is one thing I know for sure: that we have a spirit and a resilience within our community that can never be taken from us,” Guthy said.
Richard Martinez then read statements on behalf of two victims’ families before honoring his own son with an anecdote about Michaels-Martinez’s elementary school football career, in which a larger and older student overpowered him.
“He was on the ground probably no more than two seconds before he hopped back up, stomped one foot on the ground and walked determinedly back into the line. That’s the kind of kid Chris was,” Martinez said. “We’ve been knocked down. And like Christopher on that day I want you to get back up and walk determinedly forward.”
Though he noted there were disagreements between himself and other parents about how to respond to the tragedy, Martinez echoed a statement he made on Saturday blaming gun laws for Michaels-Martinez’s death, pleading with the crowd to begin a campaign in favor of gun control by sending politicians postcards with the phrase “Not one more.” At his request, audience members stamped their feet and shouted the phrase each time he raised his hand.
“I wanted to give you all something to do to support us in a very concrete way. So you could leave here with some idea that you could do something to help us,” Martinez said. “We know what’s happening here and it’s unbelievable that we’re at this point. Too many people have died and it shouldn’t be. It should be not one more.”
Director of Fraternities and Sororities Kristin Van Ramshorst read a statement on behalf of the Greek community grieving the loss of victims Veronika Weiss and Katherine Cooper, who were members of the Delta Delta Delta, or Tri Delta sorority. Asking those involved with Greek organizations to stand, Van Ramshorst said they shared in the public’s sorrow.
“We are not just grieving the loss of two of our sisters, we are grieving the loss of six of our greater community members. Today, you are all our brothers and sisters, and we stand in solidarity with the entire Isla Vista Community,” Ramshorst said.
However, third-year psychology major and Tri Delta member Elizabeth Dang said though she appreciated the Greek community’s recognition in the ceremony, she was disappointed that Tri Delta did not have an opportunity to speak.
“Some of my sisters were very remorseful ’cause we were unable to have a presence on stage to celebrate the lives of our two sisters,” Dang said.
Dang also said she thought the memorial should have centered more on the victims, and that she disliked the community-focused language used by the speakers.
“I think the point of the memorial was to celebrate these students’ lives,” Dang said. “I’m not saying that the ceremony was bad, but I think there was too much emphasis on us and our campus and not enough on the deceased.
Photos by Mark Brocher and Sarah Kouklis / Daily Nexus
A version of this story appeared on page 1 of Wednesday, May 28 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.