Welcome to Isla Vista. A magical college town I was privileged to call home.
It has been over 5 years since I graduated, packed up my stuff, and moved back to LA. Much has changed in Isla Vista since then. New apartment buildings, stores, and restaurants seem to pop up out of thin air each time I visit.
Although Isla Vista looks different than when I lived there, some things will always remain the same. Kids whizzing past on their bikes, clutching a surfboard with their free hand. Skateboarders riding back from the liquor store with a 6-pack of beer balanced on their boards. Late night meals (okay, any time of day meals) at Freebirds.
Crowds gathering at Sam’s to drink on any given sunny day.
The beautiful beach that is literally in our backyards.
These are some of my favorite memories of Isla Vista. Another is being a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. I have Tri Delta to thank for the friendships I will have for a lifetime, and a support network that is scattered across the country.
It’s very difficult to put into words how I felt when I first heard about the tragedy that occurred in my former home, to some of the girls I call sisters. It was a mixture of shock, disbelief, anger, confusion, and deep sadness. I felt violated in every single way, especially since I had been in Isla Vista for alumni weekend just a month before. There was a beautiful innocence to Isla Vista that has now been lost. And for that, my heart breaks for the current students there. It will never be quite the same.
Last night, Los Angeles-based UCSB alumni gathered together at the Santa Monica Pier for a memorial in honor of the victims. Everyone showed up wearing UCSB gear and brought flowers to cast into the ocean.
I watched in amazement and with an overwhelming sense of pride as the crowds got larger and larger as the sun set. Hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects. It was a bittersweet reunion.
We had a moment of silence for each of the victims and then tossed our flowers into the ocean.
Almost 20 UCSB Tri Delta alumni joined me at this event. Some I speak to every day, many I haven’t seen in years, and a few I hadn’t ever met. But we all came together to support one another and mourn the Gauchos that we lost too soon. If I have learned anything from the events of the past week, it is that our bond is forever, and it is truly unbreakable.
If you wish to help in some way, you can make donations to several funds that have been created to help the families of those who have been affected by this tragedy. The Santa Barbara Foundation has created a Victims of Isla Vista Fund. UCSB Tri Delta Alumni have also created a fund to help with Veronika Weiss and Katie Cooper’s funeral expenses. Lastly, if you wish to send an online postcard to your governor and local congressional members in support of gun safety (it takes 5 seconds!), you can do so here.
As we say in Tri Delta, let us steadfastly love one another.
Ole Ole Ole.
*Thank you to my sister for taking many of the memorial photographs.