An estimated 20,000 Isla Vista residents, UCSB students and professors, dignitaries from around California, and everyday Santa Barbara citizens packed Harder Stadium to the brim on Tuesday afternoon to remember the lives of the six victims who were killed during the shooting spree on May 23.
The memorial service, which started at about 4:25 p.m. and lasted until a little past 5:30 p.m., featured numerous speakers, including UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang and UC President Janet Napolitano, followed by somber musical performances. Richard Martinez, the father of 20-year-old victim and UCSB sophomore Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, also spoke out from the podium for stronger gun control, leading the standing crowd in chants of “Not One More.”
The afternoon service, which followed an official day of mourning on campus, where all classes had been canceled, began with members of Isla Vista’s faith community saying that humanity is not defined by the tragedies we face, but by how we respond to those tragedies. Those comments were followed by a quiet moment of reflection, in which thousands shared a deafening minute of silence.
Chancellor Henry Yang spoke next. “We come together this afternoon with heavy hearts,” he said. “Our UC Santa Barbara family is in mourning as we remember the six extraordinary students taken from us so suddenly and so terribly. … The last few days have been dark ones, but we are moved by the compassion and courage we have witnessed by our students, paramedics, CSOs, doctors and surgeons, and so many more who are helping us through this difficult time. We wanted to especially thank the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, the UC police officers, and Sheriff’s deputies for acting quickly and courageously to protect our students and residents to prevent an even greater tragedy.” This was followed by loud applause.
Napolitano was followed by UC Regent Bruce Varner, a UCSB graduate. Then came UCSB’s AS president Ali Guthy, who repeatedly uttered the phrase “We remember them” in her moving remarks. “Why have such a beautiful place and such beautiful people been hurt in this way?” she asked. “Why here and why now? We don’t have all the answers, and we may never fully understand the tragedy that has happened here this past week.” But searching for those answers shouldn’t be the quest, argued Guthy, as she said she’s discovered one sure thing: “That we have a spirit of resilience within our community that can never be taken from us. We remember them.”
Martinez then rose to read two statements from other victims’ families and explain that his views were solely his own, as there are disagreements among the families as to how to proceed. Since first speaking to the media at Sheriff Bill Brown’s press conference on Saturday, Martinez is loudly calling for more gun control and blaming do-nothing politicians for these deaths.
The first statement that Martinez read was from the parents of Weihan “David” Wang. “Your sacrifices weren’t in vain,” they wrote. “Your sacrifices will wake the powers and authorities in America that it’s time to stop the gun violence. Our children deserve a land free from fear. … Thank you son. We will learn to love people the rest of our lives as you did.” The second was from the parents of Cheng “James” Yuan Hong, who blessed “all of the victims and the families, including the killer.” They concluded, “May we together create a peaceful world and let hatred be gone with the wind.”
Martinez, again iterating that his political views were his own, then told a story of his son, Christopher, and explained that he was going to ask the students to write postcards with “Not One More” to every politician they could imagine to advocate for stricter gun control. But then he said he’d realized the students might not know what postcards were, but he had learned about hashtags. With that, #NotOneMore was born, and it is already screaming through cyberspace, with thousands of posts on Twitter just minutes after Martinez spoke.
Martinez complained that there have been no leaders on this issue. “They have done nothing. That’s why Chris died,” he argued in front of the crowd. “How many more people are going to have to die in this situation before the problem gets solved?” He said that people who grew up in the 1960s and ‘70s didn’t have to worry about dying in murder sprees, asking, “Why should it be like this for you people who are young now?” He then got the crowd on their feet and led them in chants of “Not One More,” which continued across the stadium as he left the stage.
Other speakers included Kum-Kum Bhavnani, chair of UCSB’s Academic Senate; Kristin Van Ramhorst, director of fraternities and sororities at UCSB; and two more members of the I.V.-UCSB faith community.