UC Berkeley community mourns victims of UC Santa Barbara tragedy

At dusk on a clear and warm Wednesday night, a somber crowd of more than 500 gathered on Memorial Glade, holding candles, to listen to tearful remembrances of the UC Santa Barbara students injured and killed last Friday near the university.

Organized by UC Santa Barbara alumna Jo Downes, the candlelight vigil drew many graduates from that UC campus. Young and old, they wore school sweatshirts; some came in T-shirts from the Tri Delta sorority, which lost two of its members.

Most mourners were there in solidarity with the six who died and the 13 who were wounded during a shooting spree the night of May 23. It occurred in Isla Vista, an unincorporated community in Santa Barbara County where most of the residents are college students from nearby UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College.

“The UCSB community lost six wonderful people to a senseless act of violence, and the families and friends of the victims are now forced to endure a grief that no one should ever have to go through,” said Downes, now a UC Berkeley graduate student in molecular and cell biology, in her opening remarks. “Tonight, we need to turn our thoughts to remembering those six people and thinking about the positive things about their lives.”

Two students speak at Wednesday night’s vigil. (Photo by Hulda Nelson)[/caption]

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele attended the vigil and expressed the sentiments of many at Berkeley, saying, “We are in community with those at Santa Barbara, we are here for them.”

Also in the crowd was Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Joseph Defraine Greenwell, who urged students in the crowd not to be afraid to seek counseling from friends, faculty advisors or medical professionals at Berkeley’s University Health Services, and also to “listen to and take care of each other — make sure you are giving support.”

Steele read a statement of condolence from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who was attending a meeting in Southern California, and ended his remarks with the last stanza of the poem, “When Great Trees Fall,” by legendary writer Maya Angelou, who died Wednesday at age 86:

“And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”