Arcadio Lopez Castrejon and his seven-year-old son Fabian are dead. Fabian’s mom, Leonor, and his younger brother Christian will probably spend Christmas in the hospital.
Residents of an apartment complex on the 6600 block of Picasso Road woke up at 3:30 in the morning on Friday, Nov. 30, to a fire raging in the Lopez’s home. When firefighters found the family in the back of their apartment, Arcadio was already dead. Fabian died on the way to the hospital.
The two remaining family members, Leonor and Christian, have been in the hospital since Friday. Hopefully, both of them will be able to recover well enough to pick up the pieces of their lives.
Hopefully, they won’t be alone in their time of need.
Last February, when the Friday night party scene was brought to a blood-curdling halt with the deaths of four students, Isla Vista pulled together and mourned as a community. There were candlelight vigils, piles of flowers, and an overwhelming outpouring of emotion and togetherness that Isla Vistans truly needed. Many students, almost a year later, are still mourning this loss.
While what happened this past Friday may not have been a malicious act of violence like February’s tragedy, it was still a great loss to this community. Those who died and those who are still spending at least part of their holidays in the hospital may not have been students that we saw in class every week, but they are still a part of the I.V. “family” that many students are proud to be a part of.
When one thinks of Isla Vista as a community, it’s easy to forget the 10,000 residents who aren’t students. We don’t interact with them on a daily basis, even though they live down the street or even right next door to us. Our neighbors are not just our peers; they are also the mothers we see in the supermarket and the children playing in the park across the street.
They are the Lopezes in their 6651 Picasso Rd. apartment.
With finals and the upcoming holiday season, this incident could be easily swept under the carpet and forgotten. Those who are still remembering the fellow students who died nine months ago might not remember the two fellow Isla Vistans who died six days ago.
This isn’t to say that nobody in I.V. cares about the Lopezes. A vigil was held at Cottage Hospital, where the Lopezes are staying, and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department has organized a collection fund with the Santa Barbara Bank and Trust to help out. It’s good to see people pulling together to help their neighbors.
And these neighbors need all the help they can get. Half of their family is dead, most of their possessions have been destroyed and the road to recovery is long and difficult.
There are several places to go to help. Local support groups have already sprung into action, setting up collection points for monetary donations in the residence hall dining commons and at Panda Express in the Hub. Also, A.S. External Vice President for Local Affairs Ana Rizo is organizing a clothing and toy drive so that Leonor and Christian will have some cheer to come home to.
Beyond this, well-wishers can leave flowers at the site of the fire, or send get well letters to Leonor and Christian in the hospital. And, if nothing else, a financial donation to the county firefighter’s collection fund with the Santa Barbara Bank and Trust will help a lot. With medical bills and property damage to pay for, as well as missed days of work, the Lopezes will need every cent they can get.
This is the Isla Vista that pulled together for the tragic deaths on February 23, 2001. Hopefully, Isla Vistans will pull together once again with the same outpouring of compassion, concern and support for their neighbors.