Thursday was a day of remembrance for approximately 5,000 people who gathered to celebrate the lives of the four victims of Friday night’s fatal incident.
The vigil, organized by Associated Students, began at 4:30 in Storke Plaza with key speakers, followed by close to 30 community members addressing the crowd during an open mic period. At dusk, A.S. passed out candles and flowers, and mourners proceeded to the site of the incident.
UCSB students Nicholas Bourdakis and Christopher Divis, Santa Barbara City College student Ruth Levy and San Francisco resident Elie Israel were all pronounced dead on the scene after they were struck by a speeding car on the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde Road on Feb. 23. Albert Levy, Ruth’s brother and a San Francisco resident, is still in critical condition at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang opened the memorial, offering his condolences to the community.
“I first want to say how much it has meant to the families and friends of the victims of last weekend’s tragedy to have your sympathy, your support, your unconditional love. … I know that in this time of grief, we also want to remember and memorialize three other students whose untimely deaths this past year add to the sense of loss that our campus now experiences,” he said. “Miyaka Geh, Patrick Hsu and David Lindsay all were important members of our community. They are all missed. And they are all remembered. The family of Albert Levy is praying for his recovery and they have asked that we join them, that we keep him in our thoughts and in our hearts, and we will.
“When my wife Dilling and I arrived at the accident, we wanted to do all we could to console and comfort those who were at the scene, and to grieve with them. On the streets of Isla Vista on those early morning hours, we witnessed some extraordinary examples of courage, compassion and humanity,” Yang said. “Later, this observance will become a candlelight procession to the scene of this horrible tragedy, where we have made memorials all week, including the tree we planted [Wednesday]. This tree will grow tall, strong and wonderful – just like Ruth, like Elie, like Nicholas, like Christopher. Its branches will become arms, reaching out to embrace us, just as we have embraced each other this week. We will take comfort in that.”
Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall said she is proud of the way Isla Vista has pulled together in this time of tragedy.
“Each of us in some way was forever changed by the loss of these four young people, individuals who should have had long and full lives ahead of them,” she said. “I am reminded of a passage from author Leo Buscaglia that I’d like to read: ‘Death teaches that the time is now. The time is now to pick up a telephone and call the person that you love. Death teaches the joy of the moment – it teaches us we don’t have forever. It teaches us that nothing is permanent. It teaches us to let go, and it tells us to give up on expectations and let tomorrow tell its own story.’ … Because time is fleeting, let’s seize this moment to begin our healing process.”
State Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, representatives from A.S., Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Congressmember Lois Capps’ office all spoke, and afterward the microphone was turned to an open forum. Friends of the victims, UCSB staff, community members and others affected by the tragedy, spoke, recited poetry and sang songs.
Close to 30 of Divis’ and Bourdakis’ friends joined together at the microphone, while nine, including roommates of both the victims, spoke to the crowd. Among them, UCSB sophomore Conor Buckley said some of his best moments were spent with the deceased.
“I didn’t see them as much as I wanted to this year; we get stuck in the stupid shit we have to deal with everyday and you forget about what’s important,” he said. “So what I’m saying to everyone that’s listening to this is that if there is anything that you can learn from this, it’s that you need to appreciate the friends that you have and the family that you have. And you can’t take them for granted.”
Michael Vos, Divis’ roommate, said he urges everyone affected by the accident to appreciate his or her life in memory of the victims.
“On Sunday morning I went out to the beach here in Isla Vista and looked out at the ocean and saw how beautiful it was, and I just realized the beauty of life. And rather than dwelling on the horror of this tragedy, I would like to dwell on the beauty of life, of all the people around us. … We have been given free will, and some of us use our free will to do evil, but a whole lot more of us can use our free will to do good,” he said. “And I just want all of us to recognize the beauty of life and to use our free will to do good in memory of my friends Nick and Chris. … I want to live a better life and I hope that all of us can live better lives in their memory as well as in the memories of the other victims of this horrible accident.”
Mark Fox, a UCSB student and resident on the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde Road, said his friend Ryan Wood, who gave Albert Levy CPR at the scene of the incident, is responsible for shedding some light in this time of darkness.
“He is the gentleman, friend and savior, who not only saved the life of Albert Levy by administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but he also saved the hopes and dreams of the Levy family and friends. And throughout it all, maintained not only humbleness and grace and compassion, but also maintained a desire to receive no credit for his glorious actions.”
Aida Clark, a SBCC student, said she lost her son to a drunken driver.
“I would hope that this community will support the parents two or three months from now,” she said. “The grieving really comes later. … The grieving comes around the kid’s birthdays and holidays and stuff like that, and everybody’s going to be busy about their business, and I just pray to God that this community will try to stay in contact with these parents, all the time.”
Approximately 1,000 people proceeded to the site of the incident with candles and flowers, which were quietly laid in front of five memorials in Little Acorn Park and along Sabado Tarde Road.