My son graduates from UCSB in 20 days under a black cloud. He knew 2 of the six students killed by gunfire on Friday, and at least one of the hospitalized. What should be a joyous time for our son and family is now filled with enormous sadness as we think about those who lost their lives and their families who have to endure this tragedy.
Our family met Christopher Michaels-Martinez, the 20 year old who was shot and killed at the IV Deli Mart, and his parents when he was in kindergarten. My daughter was in the same class with Christopher that year and again in third grade. They played on baseball teams together and we spent hours in the stands with his parents during those early years, cheering on all the kids and talking about common interests like backpacking.
Special people have a way of impacting you long after you have contact with them. We didn’t see the Martinez family much as the kids grew older, but it was always great when we did and to hear how well Christopher was doing. As his dad Richard said yesterday “Christopher was a great kid –ask anyone who knew him”.
When Richard Martinez walked away from the podium yesterday, you could tell that someone asked him if he had a picture of Christopher. He pulled out his wallet, and when he opened it, right on top you could see the classic youth baseball photo – helmet on, bat held high. The tears flowed in our house.
My son called me Friday night about a half hour after the rampage to tell me he was OK. He had been at his house about 3 blocks away when it all happened. We were in constant contact yesterday. In the morning he had learned that a girl he knew since freshman year was thankful that all she had was a gunshot wound to the leg. In the early afternoon he learned that Katie (Katherine) Cooper had been killed. He had only met her a couple times, but had several friends who were close to Katie. He spent time consoling them yesterday as we waited to hear more. Two hours later I had to call him with the news that Christopher was a victim. We couldn’t talk. Later he went to the candlelight vigil.
It’s been a bad six weeks in Isla Vista. First the DelTopia riots, most likely caused by the 10,000 to 20,000 non-residents who came (many uninvited) to this all day party next to campus. Three weeks ago, a girl my son knew well and lived across the street fell off the bluff two blocks away. She was found dead on the beach the next morning.
For those that don’t know UCSB and Isla Vista, it is a great school and a unique community. The average GPA for admitted freshmen last year was 4.0 and the average math and English SAT score was nearly 1300. Five Nobel Prize winners are associated with the school. The campus extends to the bluffs 50 feet above the Pacific Ocean. An incredible combination of top-tier academics and casual beach life.
Isla Vista is a beach/student community adjacent to the school. Many people who attend the community college 15 minutes away choose to live here with all the UCSB students to get the full college life experience. The heart of it is about 5 blocks wide and 8 blocks deep, bordering on a bluff above the beach. Students can always be seen walking, skateboarding and biking, enjoying the quintessential California beach life in beach attire. And they know how to party – and for the most part, to party responsibly. It is a unique place – not for everyone (including my daughter who chose a small college) – but an amazing place for those who are attracted to all that it offers.
Fortunately, there is a strong Sheriff presence in the community. At times you will hear students complain about ticky-tack tickets. But my son always says that once you know and follow the simple rules, you can have a great time and not have any problems. The Sheriffs help keep things under control and join in on the laughs as college students do their thing.
I firmly believe this constant Sheriff presence and their bravery kept this tragedy from being much worse. They were very close by when the shooting started. Foot patrols responded immediately. The shooter did his killing while on foot, not while driving. He had to jump in his car as he knew authorities were responding, and thankfully only wounded instead of killing people with his wild gunshots as he raced through the community. No question this was brought to an end so quickly by the Sheriffs who risked their lives while exchanging fire with the killer on multiple occasions.
We are grieving today for the Martinez family and for all the victims and their families. For the wounded we are hoping they have fast and complete recoveries. For all the students and community, we feel for you too.
Just before I hit the publish button, this link was sent to us – it is a picture on CNN of my son and friend at last night’s candlelight vigil. The tears keep flowing here.