About 50 people gathered in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park Sunday afternoon to remember those lost in the Isla Vista community over the past two years.
Saturday, Feb. 23, marked the one-year anniversary of the deaths of Nicholas Bourdakis, Christopher Divis, Elie Israel and Ruth Levy, who were killed on Sabado Tarde Road. Albert Levy, who was critically injured, is now almost fully physically recovered, but was unable to attend the service.
On Sunday, friends and family of those victims and the 16 other community members who passed away in the last two years, shared memories and then proceeded to Little Acorn Park, where they gathered around a tree planted last year in memory of the victims.
“We are here today for a very important reason – to remember … those who were once part of our campus and community, but who no longer walk among us, do indeed live on, in our memory,” Chancellor Henry Yang said. “To remember them is to reaffirm the importance of the lives they lived, the friends they made, the wonderful things they accomplished.”
Many speakers thanked the UCSB community for the support they have received. In a statement, the Bourdakises said their son’s happiness at UCSB was a tribute to the community.
“In the last year we have received close to 1,000 notes of sympathy and support, from people who knew Nick and from people who [didn’t]. In reading them, we are struck with how many people questioned how such a senseless … tragedy could happen,” it stated. “We must try to look beyond that moment and look towards the future … we must take responsibility for the safety of each other, our friends and the community.”
Andrea Divis, Christopher Divis’ sister, also expressed gratitude.
“I want to say thank you to all Chris’ friends,” she said. “I have come to love you, and I see why Chris did. It’s so beautiful up here; the community is so wonderful. I saw an outreach I never thought I’d see. It’s really hard to miss somebody. It’s hard to go through the holidays without seeing Chris’ smiling face … I’m glad you guys got to spend the years you did with Chris. He was a great kid; he was a great man.”
The Levy and Israel families were absent, but both sent letters, which were read during the service.
“Sunday is my son’s gravestone unveiling in Oakland,” Abby Pollak, Israel’s mother, wrote. “On behalf of the family I want to thank you all for your compassion, kindness and support … Few of you knew my son … but still you took the time to write beautiful notes that were a consolation for all that loved him … There is nothing we can do now other than remember to be mindful … for only in remembering and being aware can we hope to avoid brutal tragedies like these.”
“We are very grateful to you for remembering Ruthie in such a beautiful and meaningful way,” Shary Levy wrote. “We truly wish we could be with you … By the time this letter is being read, some of our family will have spent part of Friday and Saturday in Santa Barbara and Isla Vista before returning to the Bay Area. Ruthie loved living here, and it felt right for us to come here on this first anniversary of her death, to honor her life … We are very grateful to you for making this the kind of community that gave Ruthie happiness and fulfillment … As we mourn Ruthie and as Bert continues to recover, we know your hearts are with us, and we are full of appreciation.”
Alan Weber, a Bourdakis family friend, said the death of his daughter years ago taught him healing does not mean forgetting.
“What I’ve learned is that the happiness and joy and tragedy are all part of the human experience,” he said. “You have to live for everyday, but plan for the future … try to have fun … I have survived it, you will all survive, and you’ll learn that you don’t have to forget those who you lost. We can’t give up, we can’t falter, we can’t stop experiencing the love, the joy, the tragedy.”