Storke Tower rang out six times Saturday evening to begin a moment of silence as part of the Candlelit Vigil and March held to commemorate the students lost in the events of May 23 last year.
UC Santa Barbara students, faculty and staff, law enforcement, local government officials and I.V. community members gathered in Storke Plaza alongside the victims’ families to remember George Chen, Katie Cooper, James Hong, Chris Martinez, David Wang and Veronika Weiss. Following a dance piece titled Not One More and an a capella performance of “Amazing Grace,” participants walked to People’s Park carrying Blunite blue LED lights.
Associated Students Program Board organized the night’s event, which included an open mic in the park for speakers who wished to share memories of the victims. The vigil concluded with a video screening, paying tribute to the students lost and highlighting the solidarity demonstrated within the I.V. community following the tragedy.
Chancellor Henry T. Yang said UCSB will continue to honor the lives lost on May 23 last year.
“Tragedy will not tear us apart but bring us closer together,” Yang said. “We will never forget the loss we suffered a year ago, but we remember not just with sadness, but with fondness.”
UCSB has established six unique memorial scholarships in honor of each of the victims, according to Yang.
“We can make their lives more meaningful by the way we choose to live our own, and we can make the lives of others more meaningful in the ways we choose to honor them,” Yang said. “We will uphold their memory now and in years to come with six individual memorial scholarships … individualized to reflect their character and their passions.”
Academic Senate chair and sociology professor Kum-Kum Bhavnani read a letter on behalf of the Hong family which stated the need for a cultural shift away from violence.
“James believed in a world without evil, a world where tragic instances like this would never occur. We hope it will become a reality,” the Hong family stated in the letter. “Parenting and mental well-being should be focused on more in family, school and society. We should put more emphasis on moral values and teach kids to see the good in others and respect others.”
Richard Martinez, father of Chris Martinez, said those affected by the tragedy should continue to live their lives as a testament to those lost.
“For our absent brothers, daughters, sisters and friends, for their sake we must also live,” Martinez said. “We can mourn for those we lost, and we can go on living. There is no contradiction in this. We must remember that making something of this life is not an affront to the dead.”
Alan Martinez, uncle of Chris Martinez, said he continues to mourn as memories of the tragedy resurface.
“I’ve been a little afraid of being in a world where people expect me to be over it after a year,” Martinez said. “Every time I forget it, if it’s for a few minutes or a few hours, remembering it again is like going through it again. Every time you forget about it and remember it you have to accept it again.”
Kelly Wang, mother of George Chen, said she hopes to see social and political changes prevent future shootings.
“I pray there will be an end of the senseless killing of innocents,” Wang said. “Murderers must be punished with no excuse, no exception, and no reservation. As a victim family, we hope that this horrible massacre was a wake up call and no time shall be wasted in striving for future prevention.”
Counseling and Psychological Services director Jeanne Stanford said she was glad to see the victims’ families in attendance at the memorial event.
“They were able to absorb the love that this community has and to share with us how they’re doing, and I think that’s important for the students to know,” Stanford said.
Computer science professor Phillip Conrad said he taught George, James and David in CMPSC 40: Foundations of Computer Science. According to Conrad, the three students were well-liked and he has positive memories of them sitting in the front row of his class.
“It is a convention, that when someone is taken from us, we only remember the good things, we only speak of the good things. But as I told James, George and David’s parents today, in their case there are only good things to say,” Conrad said. “People only said good things of George, David and James when they were with us, because that’s all there was to say.”
Tragedy will not tear us apart but bring us closer together. We will never forget the loss we suffered a year ago, but we remember not just with sadness, but with fondness. – Chancellor Henry T. Yang
Stephanie Barlev, Weiss’ water polo teammate of four years, said a quote from Weiss inspired her to speak during open mic.
“I would like share it with everyone else, ‘If I could live my life over again, I wouldn’t change anything … I am happy with my life.’ I ask that everyone live like Veronika Weiss did,” Barlev said. “Living every second with the friends closest to you, being spontaneous and laughing obnoxiously.”
Joni Kent, aunt of Cooper, said the lights at the memorial event reminded her of Cooper’s personality.
“Katie was a light,” Kent said. “She would have absolutely loved this.”
Second-year Santa Barbara City College student Kyle Sullivan said he comforted Cooper and Weiss in their final moments.
“They were so beautiful even in their last moments. I did everything that I could to make their passing from this life to the next, as comfortable and as painless as possible,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also said having experienced the May 23 shooting, he believes individuals should work to improve gun safety.
“I witnessed firsthand the violence that guns can cause,” Sullivan said. “This will continue until we speak up and change things. I want my children to be able to walk around with peace of mind, knowing they will not be shot down in the street.”
Fourth-year communication and sociology double major Christina Laskorunsky said she felt the I.V. community was united through the event.
“I thought it was so touching that not just the school, but every business in I.V. sort of stopped what they were doing during the vigil,” Laskorunsky said. “Coming together with your friends, people you’ve just met, people you’ve never met.”
Second-year art and psychology major Sophia Barkhudarova said the vigil was inclusive for all attendees, even for first-year students who were not present last year during the shooting.
“I have some friends that are freshmen too that didn’t experience it firsthand like some of us did, but we all came together anyways and it was a really good community movement,” Barkhudarova said.
Fourth-year global studies major and A.S. Program Board commissioner Benjamin Simons said a united I.V. can make positive changes.
“The community is looking for a change, and we all can do stuff together to make that change,” Simons said. “I think the safety of I.V. really relies upon the community coming together.”
A.S. President and third-year history of public policy major Jimmy Villarreal said while I.V. is “moving forward” through remembrance events, individuals have different healing processes.
“It’s an ongoing process. Everyone kind of heals at their own rates,” Villarreal said. “Some people are done, they’ve closed this chapter in their lives. Some people they’re only just beginning to think about this.”