If you walk past south hall as if you were heading toward the Rec Cen and you look toward the left, as you are making your way past the caps building you will notice a big black/blueish colorful board that is about 10 by 10 feet. When you take a closer look your eyes will immediately take you the blue most part of the board which is a bright blue wave with the names of the victims. The second thing you will notice are the bold yellow letters write above the blue waves that state in all caps: WE REMEMBER THEM. Lastly as you take a closer look you will notice the detail where you will find messages written by students to the victims. If you were to find yourself at this site looking at this object you may ask yourself; what happened here? Or why is this here? And the only answer would probably be to investigate the significance of this piece/site.
Four years ago there was huge incident where a young man in Isla Vista, who seemed to struggle socially, decided to go on a rampage killing 6 people and injuring more. Cops would later find him dead after he’d shot himself in the head. According to Scott Jaschik, who wrote an article regarding the incident, the killer had planned to target to kill women as form of revenge for the way women would reject him(1). The Isla Vista community was devastated and would immediately seek action to commemorate the lives of the six wonderful people who lost their lives. There were various projects that were planned to commemorate the victims of the tragedy and a memorial wall was one of them.
Initially the wall itself had an original function before it was used as a commemorative piece. The wall once served as a wooden board where students would leave random messages, very similar to a graffiti wall. This original piece was located in front of, what is now the newest part of the library which at the time was under construction. The tragedy also happen during this time which is when action would be taken to make the wooden piece a memorial wall. According to Melissa Barthelemy, six year graduate of Public History and one of the first persons who took action to help the graduate and undergraduate students with this tragedy, stated “Some UCSB students told me that they wanted a space in the Arbor that could focus on art and healing and that they thought it was important to have a memorial space on the actual campus. With the support of the Office of Student Life and Associate Dean Katya Armistead we created the Memorial Wall at The Arbor which is a painted wooden structure that is covered in dozens of messages of compassion and solidarity.” Although the wall would be asked to be removed after construction was done, students proposed the piece stay on campus since there wasn’t any piece that served as memory for the victims.
According to Dee Britton ,who wrote an article defining collective memory, Collective memory is anything that brings together a community such as an object, food, traditions etc. .(1) This is important to understand because in a way the memorial wall is a collective memory. Although it may be a different type of memory that brings the ucsb and Isla Vista community together its purpose remains the same. Britton went to add the work of Emile Durkheim, who studied traditional societies, and mentioned something very interesting, he stated “Across the country, individuals left spontaneous groups and needed a totemic object to maintain the sense of solidarity and unity.” I believe the wall can be interpreted in many ways, it can be seen as an object to those who were there at the moment or can also be seen as a site. It can be a place of reference to show the importance of something. Either way the point Durkheim makes can definitely apply to this situation.
We may ask ourselves, why we are being asked to remember this site or why is this wall still on campus. I strongly believe that the wall was maintained on the campus for incoming students or anyone to know that at some point there was a big tragedy that has shaped this campus in one way or another. I’m sure there has been a lot of change, since the incident, not only with the unity of community but with the law. In addition, it is wonderful to see the yearly commemorations for the victims, which may mean less to us now, who were not present, but are highly important to those who were impacted. I also believe having a place on campus where students who were here at the time of the incident can come and remember and still feel attached to what happened is important. Although they may wish it never happened, for them to be able come back and see a commemoration can be meaningful. Lastly, and most importantly, to commemorate those innocent victims who lost their lives? We must not necessarily know who they are but what we can do is commemorate them for being victims of an awful tragedy and give our respects and honors.