It was heartbreaking to hear about the horrific event that occurred on May 23, 2014. On this day, Elliot Rodger committed a cowardly act of violence on six students from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). His emotional instability and his lack of social skills led him to desire to have revenge on women who didn’t want to be with him. In order to execute his plan successfully, he had to kill three of his roommates so they wouldn’t expose him, which enabled him to shoot two women from the sorority. He then ruthlessly ended the life of a random student who was simply going about his life on the streets of Isla Vista. Unfortunately, justice couldn’t be served. After his malicious murder of these innocent students, he shot himself in the head. What I found appalling was the fact that he had the audacity to justify his actions in a YouTube video prior to his massacre and suicide.
The victims’ names (top row from left to right): Weihan Wang, George Chen, Cheng Yuan Hong, & (Bottom row from left to right) Christopher Martinez, Katie Cooper, Veronika Weiss.
Nobody knows if Elliot ever thought about the aftermath of his actions–I don’t think he, himself, even knew. But his actions certainly left a painful mark on the victims’ families, relatives, and ultimately on the UCSB and IV community. Nothing has been the same since the massacre occurred three years ago because it produced a dark history for the community to remember.
However, though this may have been extremely tragic, there were people who decided to blanket the situation with optimism. Through the help of students, community members, and, of course, the victims’ families, a special place called the Isla Vista Remembrance Love and Garden was created at the People’s Park. This special place was designed to remember the victims by, as stated in the news, making “a way for people to remember and not necessarily the tragedy, but remember the beauty of life and the beauty of the people we lost and how they touched each and every one of us.”
Furthermore, it makes sense to establish a place consisting of living things for students whose lives were unfairly taken away because, as cliché as it may sound, this triggers one to think about how life can never be taken for granted and how one needs to live life to the fullest. I firmly believe that the park is supposed to be heavily symbolic because, as UCSB Associate Dean of Student Life & Activities Katya Armistead explained, the idea that “all the plants…will bring sustenance for the birds, bees and butterflies” reinforces that life is still beautiful.
As time goes by, people still remember the incident, but they are also glad that “they (everyone who contributed to the project) were able to create something for the community to heal and to grow and to remember life and love,” which is exactly what the memorial is supposed to do.
When I walked to the park one day, I noticed that there weren’t any signs explaining the meaning of the six benches. I decided to ask my professor and acquaintances about that. One explanation is that the families of the victims wanted the benches to be private in a sense because they wanted to commemorate their loved ones in that particular way. But the main reason why the families decided not to put a sign up is because instead of reminding the public of why the benches were established in the first place, they wanted the people to solely focus on the flowers, the green vivid bushes, and the feeling that life should always be celebrated at all times. Perhaps, it is safe to assume that the families’ purpose was to have everyone embrace life to the fullest, just how they know their loved ones would have if they were still alive.
When I went to visit the park myself, I can definitely tell you that I felt all the positive vibes when I was there. The green bushes made feel at ease, and the flowers on which a butterfly just so happened to land, made my experience at the park more precious. But when I sat on the benches, I actually felt sad, and I think the reason for this is because I already knew the history behind them. It was right there and then when I realized what the families of the victims were attempting to do; they wanted people to go to park, and only think about life and not the tragedy that tried to destroy the beauty of it.