Hundreds of UC Santa Barbara students took to the ocean to honor six of their own who were killed last week during Elliot Rodger’s deadly rampage through the seaside college town of Isla Vista.
With their surfboards, group floatation devices and handfuls of flowers, the students paddled out Wednesday beyond the breakers, where they lined up in formation to remember those killed after Rodger, 22, stabbed three people to death in his apartment before fatally shooting three others as he tore through Isla Vista in his BMW on Friday night.
The paddle-out memorial, organized by the UCSB surf team, was the latest in a series of vigils and memorials organized to help shocked students deal with the grief, disbelief and, in some cases, anger over the rampage, which left 13 others wounded.
Killed in the attack were Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20; Weihan “David” Wang, 20; Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, 20; Veronika Weiss, 19; Katie Cooper, 22; and George Chen, 19.
For the first time since the incident, students on Wednesday returned to class after having attended a mass memorial the day before at Harder Stadium, where UC President Janet Napolitano called on the student body to hold the memories of their slain comrades dear.
“As long as we hold them in our hearts, they’re not gone,” she told the packed stadium of about 20,000 people.
At the paddle-out, video showed students chanting, signing and tossing bouquets of flowers into the ocean, some in wetsuits on surfboards, some in shirts and caps on giant floats. Still others stood on the water’s edge holding flowers.
More than 2,000 people had signed up on Facebook to attend on the event, which was supervised by Santa Barbara County lifeguards who volunteered their time.
UCSB Surf Club member Bradley Martin told the university’s student newspaper, the Daily Nexus, that he was “shocked” by the number of people who turned out.
“It is just a testament to the strength and resilience of the community,” he said. “It is great to see everyone coming together to create a calm environment where we can all celebrate one another and honor those we lost this past week.”