veronika weiss

These are the victims of the Isla Vista shooting. THESE are the people we should be talking about, and how tragic it is that six innocent people had their lives cut far too short.

Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, was killed while buying potato chips at a local deli mart. He was an English major who wanted to go to law school and pursue a career as an attorney, like his father and mother had, and was going to make a trip to London this summer. 

Veronika Weiss, 19, was a sports-loving freshman who loved water polo and played for her high school polo team. Her little brothers Cooper and Jackson, and her parents, Bob and Colleen have to plan and attend her funeral instead of celebrating her graduation, which she’ll never see. She wanted to pursue a career in finance, using her exceptional skills in maths.

Katie Cooper, 22, was a senior, just weeks away from graduating with an art history and archaeology degree. She had already ordered her cap and gown for the ceremony. She had done exceptionally well academically and was beloved by everyone she came into contact with, described as, “kind-hearted, gentle, sweet, and completely selfless.”

Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, was one of the shooter’s roommates. From San Jose, he was pursuing a degree in computer engineering. Hong was only a few days from moving out of the apartment he would eventually lose his life in.

George Chen, 19, was another of the shooter’s roommates. He had been a camp counselor for the local YMCA and loved working with young kids. He took great strides to ensure that his neighbours were taken care of, including picking up the mail and newspaper for an elderly man down the street.

Weihan Wang, 20, was a friend of the former two, majoring in engineering, who was visiting his friends when the shooter attacked. His parents immigrated from China 10 years ago, and are now forced to bury their only child, who showed so much promise, graduating from his high school with a 4.3 GPA. 

These are the people we should be talking about. These are the people whose faces we should see everywhere. It’s criminal how many pages I had to click through just to find the most basic information on these young people, when the shooter is found on nearly every news site multiple times. 

My condolences to the families of these young people. There are so many dreams and hopes and plans for their futures that will never happen now because of one deranged individual. May they rest in peace.

You cannot tame metal the same way you
cannot tame flesh. I am in this girl’s right
hand. When she is alone, she calls me
Finger. Limb. Necessary. In the mirror,
she practices being assertive in case she
ever needs it. She practices holding me
the way her mother and grandmother
taught her to.

But she will never admit how much fear
she has swallowed by the spoonful. She
is afraid of telling a strange man no.
In the mirror, she can recite their names:

Maren Sanchez, killed for rejecting
a prom date. Mary Spears, gunned down
after turning down a man she did not know.
Lakeeya Walker, beaten by a man after
not thanking him for holding the door
open for her. Katherine Cooper and
Veronika Weiss, shot 15 times all together
by a college student who had a plan
to kill everyone in their sorority house.

The list overflows, and yet she still tucks
this fear in her sneakers, combs it into
her hair as if it’s a fun-colored yarn.
Somehow, she believes this fear will
protect her. She believes that if she
braids me in between her joints with
enough force, she will be safe. Maybe
she will draw her own blood out of
its hiding places, but she will be safe.

It’s my job to remain calm. I will steady
her hands as she hears footsteps slapping
against the sidewalk behind her. This is
a world that doesn’t bother to pluck
the terror out of her chest when the moon
begins to frown at her. The more times
I patrol her hands, the more I understand
the part of womanhood that is always
trembling.

You cannot tame metal the same way you
cannot tame flesh. But you can calm
the flesh down. You can be on the other
end of the phone for her at 10:00 PM.
You can try and make surviving as flesh
just a little fucking easier. She does not
need saving from herself. She needs saving
from the very people who put me
in the palms of her hands.

—  Letter from the House Key in Between a Woman’s Fingers, Lydia Havens