SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara graduates who were around at the time of the Isla Vista tragedy on May 23, 2014 find it difficult to forget that night. Many of them have stories about how they were fortunate enough to be somewhere else.
"It's actually a crazy story. I'm sure every single person on this campus has a crazy story," said Spencer Mermelstein, graduate student in psychology.
Mermelstein was a senior at the time. He and his friends from Fencing Club were supposed to meet at I.V. Deli Mart Friday night like they have every other Friday night. That was where one student was killed that night.
"It's our club's tradition to go to IV to go get food. It just so happened that a lot of our members weren't at practice that night. May 23, 2014. A lot of members weren't at practice like myself. I was at a movie screening in Campbell Hall," said Mermelstein.
He remembers receiving text messages back to back notifying him about what had happened in Isla Vista.
Like other students, Mermelstein remembers the day and days after six undergraduates were killed and 14 others were injured. Mermelstein joined a movement led by Melissa Barthelemy, a UCSB doctoral candidate.
"I had students ask me what was going to happen to all the cards, letters, poems, drawings and flowers and things that had been left by parents of the victims, by the friends.. just by strangers in the community. I said sadly it's probably going to be thrown away," said Barthelemy.
She decided to ask other students, faculty and university staffers to help her preserve items left at the different memorial sites and archive them.
“Sometimes we don’t realize how huge of an impact as an individual or even as a small group and so I think there’s a lot of power in that especially in this political climate where a lot of people find healing through the community," said Barthelemy.
They titled the project "We Remember Them." The goal is to help Isla Vista and student communities grieve and heal after the tragedy. Another goal is to keep talking about student activism and the importance of communication among students.
For more information about the project, click here.