We are Shocked and Sad in Santa Barbara

It’s a sad time in my city.

You’ve heard the news: On Friday, six UC Santa Barbara students were murdered in the nearby community of Isla Vista. The 22-year-old killer shot himself as police were closing in on him.

Memorial Day will never be the same for the families and friends of those young people.

After church on Sunday, my son and I drove to McDonald’s for lunch, as usual. I ordered a cheeseburger Happy Meal for me and a Number Two with No Cheese for Dan.

We drove forward to the outside cashier. As he reached for my debit card, the young man smiled and asked how I was doing.

“Well,” I said, “I’m okay, but I’m sad about the killings in Isla Vista.”

The cashier returned from making the transaction. “Yeah. My friend, Chris Martinez, was one of them killed.” He handed the card back to me with my receipt.

I had seen this cashier before, and he was always pleasant and polite. I instinctively reached out the window and took his hand into mine. “I’m so sorry,” I said.

“Yeah.” He squeezed my hand. As I let him go, I could tell he didn’t mind such a personal response to his unexpected revelation.

He continued. “I moved here to go to school and all.” He talked about how nice he thought it would be here in Santa Barbara. “Now I have dead friends.” He turned his head and looked away.

There was a car behind me waiting its turn, but I didn’t dare leave this young man without asking it. “Do you believe in God?”

“Yeah. But I haven’t been to church in a long time.”

“You’re welcome to visit ours if you have questions.” I told him the name. “It’s right over the hill.” I introduced him to Dan, and let him know that Dan is the leader of our church youth ministries. They nodded at each other.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Travis.” His smile returned.

“Travis, we will be praying for you.”

“Thank you,” he said.

“Goodbye, Travis.” As I drove off, I heard him say, “God bless you and have a great day.”

Travis. I stopped at the pick-up window. “Don’t let me forget his name, Dan.”

“I won’t, Mom.”

Travis and thousands of other UC Santa Barbara students, families, and friends, along with our whole city, are hurting, questioning, and angry. We are discussing mental illness, Isla Vista’s past troubles, gun control, misogyny, violence in The Hunger Games, and the eerie similarities to the UCSB mass murders in 2001. The incident is both uniting and dividing as the facts unfold.

Our sleepy, ocean-side town is wide awake.

The day after the murders, I shared some of my thoughts with my Facebook friends:

…. Though we cannot help the disturbed student who shattered lives last night in Isla Vista, perhaps we can help others who may be heading in that direction. I encourage you to keep close to the young people in your lives. Get them connected to groups that are uplifting and focus on things greater than themselves.

Our young people need to know they can have security, hope, and a purpose in life. Let’s be sure to pay attention to them and offer them these things. Let’s do it face to face, hand to hand, voice to voice, hug to hug.

Before it’s too late.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

14 Comments Write a comment

  1. I brought up the scene of this crime on Google Earth. I saw a pleasant area with lots of small businesses catering to students and their interests. The area had a small town feel about it. Safe. Lots of fun things to do when the kids aren’t studying. The kind of place parents can send their children and not fear for their safety. Whew! I pray for you and your town, too, for the victims, the families of the victims, and the family of the young man who committed these crimes. The young man is past care, but one can pray for his soul, knowing God will accept him even though he is still an enigma to us.


    • His soul is in God’s hands right now, that’s for sure. Thank you for your prayers. Isla Vista had already been in the news recently due to the rioting that occurred and “Deltopia.” It’s a college town that has its difficulties. This terrible incident may be the one that turns the town around as it helps to put things into perspective. We shall see.


  2. Thanks, Darla, for personalizing that latest news story from Santa Barbara….yet another sad and shocking scenario much to familiar in our times.
    Oh, that many other students along with families/friends of the victims will have such a touching encounter that may turn them to Jesus for healing and salvation as they wander aimlessly in the aftermath of this evil reality around us…


  3. A touching connection between you and the cashier, Darla. Hold on to that memory.
    Trust me, even all these years after Columbine, which was in the same division as the high school where I taught, there are still days when I feel such sadness and confusion about so many deaths. And now we struggle with the (finally) approaching trail of the young man who shot so many at the Aurora, CO. movie theater.
    There was an interview with some of the victims’ families on the first anniversary of the theater shootings. One grandmother wiped her eyes and said, “For us, every day is Memorial Day now.”
    Hug your son tight until he gasps and says, “Oh, Mom, please stop…”


    • I can’t imagine it ever getting easier for parents when they lose children in this way. And having to wait and wait for the criminal to go through our legal system must be torturous for them. So very sad. Columbine, Aurora, Isla Vista, Nigeria. This world just makes me sad. But I believe in the promises of the Bible. Better days will come.


  4. You were an angel for Travis, Darla! What a blessing for him to have you drive through at a time he needed to know God was still there for him. Such a heart breaking story. You will all be in my thoughts and prayers. Blessings, Robyn


    • Thank you, Robyn. I’m glad that I took the time to make a connection with him a few weeks earlier. You never know what the next day will bring.


  5. It is heartbreaking to see random violence become normal. I love that you held Travis’s hand and, in doing that, let him know you were holding him in your heart. I hope he finds his way to your church, Darla. The community of faith is a wonderful thing for those who have it.


    • That is true. My son just got home after leading his youth group (grades 7 through 12), and he had them discussing the incident. I’m happy those kids had a place to share their questions, confusion, fear, and anger and wrap it around their faith.


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