Community, families honor shooting victims

A young girl crouched in front of a candlelit altar on library steps ignites a candle in remembrance of the dead. Just minutes before, she walked with over 500 people showing their support for the families and victims Friday's tragic shooting. “We are here tonight, in the wake of this crisis, to heal and make our community whole again,” said Amber Katherine, a philosophy professor at Santa Monica College, during a vigil at the college Monday night to honor the victims of Friday's rampage shooting.

Supporters met members of the administration and over 20 clergy on SMC library steps to begin a march to the Corsair Field, where faculty and local government officials spoke to a crowd to commemorate the dead.

“We have a real outpour of support from the community,” Chui L. Tsang, president at the college, told The Corsair. “I feel very privileged to be a part of this community.”

The family of Margarita Gomez, the fifth victim identified, sat at the front of the crowd next to the stage. Janette Torres, Gomez' granddaughter, said the community support helped to make the family's situation better.

“I have slowly but surely accepted the fact that my grandmother is gone,” Torres, 21, said. “The way she died, I know she didn’t suffer.”

The vigil brought at least 550 people from the college and community, including speakers City Manager Rod Gould, Santa Monica Mayor Pam O'Connor, Associated Student President Parker Jean and number of professors.

“Our being here tonight is a profound testament to our strength and our solidarity,” Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, SMC philosophy professor, said at the memorial.

A table next to the field piled with notecards encouraged attendees to write a wish or message about Friday’s tragedy. The notecards were taped together and hung from trees in front of the library.

SMC student Daric Carvagal attended the vigil with three of his friends. He was at his home five minutes away from campus when he heard about the shooting.

“I never expected it to happen here,” he said.

Free counseling services will be available later this week for those still experiencing distress over the recent tragedy.

“I have a lot of hope for the future, just talking to the students and seeing how they’re dealing with the situation, how they’re going to turn fear into action,” said Tsang. “We're here for [the students], we won’t stop."

Merissa Weiland contributed to this article.