In honor of lives lost to alcohol and drug use as well as to the six students who passed away in the 2014 Isla Vista mass murder, a crowd of students trekked from Embarcadero Hall to the streets of I.V. Tuesday night in a candle-lit memorial titled “Remembering Our Fallen Gauchos and Friends.”
The third annual memorial walk organized by the Alcohol & Drug Program, “Remembering Our Fallen Gauchos and Friends” aimed to bring attention to victims of alcohol and drug abuse-related incidents, as well as to commemorate the victims of last May’s I.V. shooting. Due to rainy weather, memorial attendees walked through I.V. streets in coats, jackets and umbrellas.
Alcohol & Drug Program Education and Outreach Coordinator Marjan Riazi said the event was created in order to provide an opportunity for students to support each other through common experiences of loss.
“This event is for students and community members who want to come together within a community of support to grieve and process their loss and experience,” Riazi said, “especially this year, as we additionally remember victims of the Isla Vista Tragedy.”
The memorial walk also aimed to address the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse in I.V., specifically seeking to warn against “synergy,” or mixing alcohol with other drugs, which Riazi said is a persistent health issue in I.V.
“Synergy, which has caused a number of deaths in Isla Vista, is prevalent within our community,” Riazi said. “It’s crucial for our students to be aware of the dangers of mixing alcohol and other drugs.”
Alcohol & Drug Program Director Jackie Kurta said the memorial walk, along with other community-building efforts in I.V. and on campus, has played a significant role in helping to mend the I.V. and campus community in wake of recent unrest and tragedy.
“We have taken this opportunity to just come together to remember students and community members we have lost,” Kurta said. “This year of course is especially powerful for all of us, we wanted to open this up to the larger community.”
Gauchos for Recovery peer Nina Taylor said the walk had personal significance to her, as alcohol and drug issues are something that effect an extensive number of students on campus.
“The reason I’m here is not only to support my community. This also touches base with some of the things I experience weekly with students that come and see us in our recovery program,” said Taylor. “I know a lot of people struggle and have had friends or family who have struggled with alcohol and drugs and as a result have injured themselves or lost their lives.”
Fifth-year anthropology major Brian Lee said the walk helped spur I.V. recovery from the May 23 tragedy and other common grievances experienced by students and I.V. residents last school year.
“Ever since the shooting last year, it’s been really hard to recover as a community,” Lee said, “I thought tonight was a great way to just come together in peace and reminisce.”