The tragedy that struck the Santa Barbara community of Isla Vista on the evening of May 23 is one that not only affected those that lived there, but also people all across the United States.
When a school shooting happens somewhere in the country, all of us ask ourselves “what can we do to help?” Social media is usually the quickest way to spread condolences, but any step further after that is dependent on where the crime took place.
With the UCSB community being the latest to unfortunately experience this, it drew a path for the entire UC system to come together in the grieving process.
After UCSB students held a candlelight vigil of their own the day after the shooting, every other UC campus quickly organized other vigils to honor the victims. Word-of-mouth was rapidly spread for each university vigil, as they all attracted a large amount of RSVPs on their respective event pages on Facebook.
UC Irvine held their vigil last Tuesday night, which brought together students, campus employees and UCSB students of the past and present, amongst others, to show their support.
Some students in attendance, however, were there for more reasons than just coming together. For fifth year math major, Christian Jaureguy, the tragedy brought back memories he had of knowing one of the six victims that died.
“I went to high school with one of the victims (Katie Cooper),” he said. “She was a grade below me, but I got to know her through her brother.”
Within days of both the spring quarter and school year coming to a close, Christian was simultaneously optimistic about the timing of the vigil happening beforehand.
“It’s cool that we can all do something together to help support everyone in Isla Vista, and hopefully this can help prevent another situation like that from happening again.”
After preparation was complete for the vigil to begin, students were called to take in part in the distribution of the candles. However, not everyone immediately went down to receive their candles. Part of this had to do with the cramped crowding on the stairs that didn’t allow everyone to move, but some students stayed in place. Attendees knew the main reason why they were here in the first place, and while some people didn’t have a candle in their hands, the overall presence of tender love and support for both the victims and UCSB community as a whole, was the most important thing of all.
By the time the vigil commenced, the turnout of the crowd had created a large U-shape around the flagpoles, and the grass area next to the poles also became an extra area for students to sit. For that night, the U-shape wasn’t just literal in its construction, but also metaphorical for the unison of everyone coming together to pay their respect for the victims.
After a series of introductions from event organizers and the director of the UCI’s counseling center, the first moment of silence was held. For close to a minute and a half, with the exception of the steady flow of cars traveling on both sides of Campus Drive, not a single noise could be heard.
Following the moment of silence was the open mic portion, which allowed numerous UCSB alumni to express their feelings from the shooting. One was a girl who said she texted all her friends who were attending UCSB once she got word of what happened. She heard back from close to all of them, except for Chris Martinez, one of the UCSB students that was killed.
Applause from the attendees succeeded each person after they finished speaking, but they seemed to get longer and louder as more people took the mic. The growing echo of this process further heightened the purposed togetherness of the vigil.
To cap off the night, UCI Vice Chancellor Thomas Parham gave a rousing speech that was met with ardent applause at the end. During it, he declared that the vigil was one of the “best displays of character I’ve ever seen.”
Once the applause died down, a final moment of silence was held for the victims. This night was all about honoring a community in need of support, and not incorporating normally useless taboo-related topics that could correlate to the motive of an attack like this. Second year film and media studies major Samantha Anton, also shares this view.
“All of what happened is very unfortunate, but I do think that there is a greater conversation to be had about all this, and it’s not just about gun control,” she said.
This past week has been tough for the UCSB community, but the rest of the UC schools, including right here at UC Irvine, are all bringing hope and solidarity through these vigils. As we look into future, things will eventually change where we get back into our normal schedules, but moments like these are special for creating long-term memories of why we all stand together as a UC system.