Isla Vista community comes together for week of mourning

Sunflowers stand in the sand on Depressions Beach in Isla Vista, Calif. on May 28, 2014 during the Memorial Paddle Out dedicated to the six May 23 murder victims.

DAVID C. RIDINGS, Channels Staff

Paddle Out Memorial

When people arrived, at UCSB Lagoon, Isla Vista, some of them didn’t expect to enter the water. But the overwhelming support of their friends and loving community drove them to swim out—jeans and all.

Waves of flowers crashed on supporters making it out to open water during the Isla Vista Memorial Paddle Out Wednesday, May 28.

An estimated 3,000 people arrived at Depressions Beach in honor of the six victims of the mass murder May 23. The water filled with residents of the Isla Vista community and supportive visitors.

The community joined hands in the water, creating a massive circle of unity that couldn’t be washed away by adversity. Cheers and the Gaucho chant rang from the ocean across the beach as those on land chimed in.

“I think it’s amazing that this is how our community reacts,” said City College student Ani Harbottle, 20, liberal arts major. “It’s great that City College and UCSB can come together as one community with two schools to do something like this.”

Groups showed up carrying kayaks, boogie boards, surfboards and rafts to use in the event. The cliffs above the beach were lined with people dangling their feet over the edge and taking photos of the unusual spectacle.

Buckets of flowers, including roses and sunflowers, were donated by anonymous participants, which others laid in the surf.

Santa Barbara County Lifeguards and Santa Barbara Beach Guard EMTs were on duty wearing bright rash guards while using surf-rescue boards and wave runners to respond to emergencies.

For safety, a UCSB student volunteer with a megaphone conducted the many waves of people entering in order to prevent accidents related to overcrowding and ocean hazards.

The memorial came to an end with flower pedals and people joyfully washing ashore as they bonded with new friends for the first time.

A strong police presence came to support and interact with the community who lost so much Friday night.

“I liked how dedicated this week was to the people that passed,” said City College student Journey Coward, 25, studio art major. “This shows how life brings us all together as a community. No matter what brought you here—we all went through it together.”

Chalk Memorial

Colorful illustrations covered Pardall Street as hundreds participating in today’s Chalk Memorial dedicated art in remembrance of the six victims of the recent Isla Vista Tragedy.

Many people of the Isla Vista community stopped to leave a piece for the quilt of chalk condolences that blanketed the roads and sidewalks. The art was framed by the bright flowers that piled up in front of IV Deli Mart.

The event was the “spur of the moment” idea of UCSB student Erin Davison, 26, with the help of her sister and City College student, Shannon Davison, 20. The event began after they made a Facebook page that quickly circulated with nearly 1,000 joining.

“When I saw the orange marking from the bullet holes, I didn’t want any reminders unless it’s positive—not a reminder of violence,” Erin said. “Everybody was looking for a way to reach out.”

Car and bike tires carry fragments of the art as they slowly move past supporters sitting silently on the road, leaving their mark.

“We’re both artists and we saw this as another way for people to express their emotions,” Shannon said. “We wanted to spread community as they spread art.”

The chalk was provided by the sisters and other community members that donated to the event.

The community chalk was placed next to a tree that was artistically wrapped in crocheted yarn, displaying peace symbols.

Students of Isla Vista Elementary School made decorated hearts in honor of the victims and that cover the new windows surrounding Isla Vista Deli Mart.

IV Deli Mart now takes donations for affected families that go towards a yearly scholarship that will be dedicated to the victims. The deli employees greeted people outside, as they too paid their respects.

Chalk was left behind at the event for any others that want to show their support.