Photos by Kenneth Song for the Daily Nexus
The residents of Isla Vista came together in Anisq‘Oyo’ Park on Monday evening, honoring the lives of those lost on May 23, 2014, through art, healing and solidarity.
Students and families created lanterns out of paper bags and placed them throughout the park, writing and drawing on six side-by-side canvases which commemorated the six students who lost their lives during the May 23 shooting.
As the sun began to set, the paper lanterns shone through the trees and illuminated the dusty walkways of the park. By the end of the evening, the surfaces of the paper lanterns were covered with pictures, songs and simple words such as “I.V. Strong.”
The memorial events were smaller this year than last, allowing students to address the anniversary and heal in personal ways.
“I think people just want a space — a space to heal and space to just do whatever they want that is going to benefit them the best — rather than having an organized official event,” Madeline Berger, third-year art and theater double major and student leader for the “Blunite” memorial, said.
She said the canvases celebrated the life of each student and allowed visitors to acknowledge loss, even if they did not personally know the victims.
“I think having dedicated spaces like the canvases really do make it a little more connected to each individual that we lost, but … there is no reason you have to connect yourself to exactly one victim,” Berger said. “There [were] tons of people that got hurt, got injured, got shot but recovered … but it was still a part of our community and it still happened to them.”
Berger described the media attention from last year’s memorial as “overwhelming” and said this year’s gathering was just as special. She believes future anniversaries will be more “private and personal” as the community learns to heal over the passing years.
“I think that a lot of the feelings that I’ve been getting from people are just, ‘I need to be able to express it however I am going to express it,’” Berger said. “There doesn’t need to be something big or grand … it can be something as simple as making tea light bags.”