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California Town of Isla Vista Again Wrestles With Grief and Questions

For the second time in 13 years, Isla Vista, Calif., is struggling to cope with the senseless killing of young college students.

Flowers and candles are again gathered on the streets and in the parks of Isla Vista as the community copes for a second time in a generation with the senseless killing of young college students in the sun-drenched California beach town.

For the second time in 13 years, bright yellow police tape ribbons the town. For the second time in 13 years, memorials and vigils are convening. For the second time in 13 years, residents and community leaders face the overwhelming task of rebuilding from tragedy.

Thirteen years ago, on another Friday night, Isla Vista's students-and-surf atmosphere was shattered when a college student, enraged that he'd been rejected by a woman, ran down and killed four people.

It happened again last Friday, when Elliot Rodger — a student at Santa Barbara City College embittered by his failure with women — stabbed his three roommates to death in their apartment and began touring the streets, killing three more students who attended the adjacent University of California, Santa Barbara, as he fired handguns and ran down pedestrians and cyclists.

Part of the rampage occurred in Little Acorn Park — where a mosaic remembering the four people killed in 2001 glistened in the sun today.

IMAGE: Memorial to four people killed in 2001 in Isla Vista, Calif.
Part of Friday's rampage took place in Little Acorn Park, where a memorial mosaic stands to remember four people who were killed in 2001 in an eerily similar attack.Isla Vista, Calif., Recreation & Park District

The healing will be slow, but it has started.

Hundreds of people already packed St. Mark’s University Parish on Sunday night, where the Rev. John Love reassured congregants that all shared their fear and bewilderment.

"When I look at the pictures tonight of Katie and Veronica and Chris — and even Elliot — I see sons and daughters, and I ask that question, too: Why?" Love said. "Why did that happen?"

At the apartment complex where Rodger lived with the three young men he stabbed to death, another young man sat outside on the sidewalk surrounded by flowers and memorials.

The young man wouldn't give his name, but he said he was there to deliver an important message:

"I want the parents to know that their kids didn't do anything wrong," he said. "Their kids did not deserve this at all."

And now, a week of organized remembrances.

The first vigil took place Saturday night as thousands of people silently carried candles from the university to another Isla Vista park. (Little Acorn Park remains a crime scene.)

Monday night, a vigil was scheduled at Westlake High School in Thousand Oaks, where one of the victims, Veronica Weiss, 19, graduated last year.

Classes are canceled Tuesday at UCSB, where the 17,000-seat soccer stadium was being prepared Monday for a massive outdoor gathering Tuesday afternoon.

UCSB is part of the sprawling, quarter-million-student University of California System, and Monday night, students at several of its institutions were gathering in solidarity.

Thousands of people RSVP'd for candlelight vigils at the University of California campuses in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Cruz, timed to begin simultaneously at 8 p.m. (11 p.m. ET).

"As students at the University of California, we stand in support of those on our sister campus," organizers said.

UC-Irvine will have its vigil Tuesday night, while UC-Riverside will follow on Wednesday and UC-Davis will hold one on Thursday.

Image: Shooting Rampage In Santa Barbara Leaves Seven Dead
Flowers fill a bullet hole in the window of IV Deli, where Christopher Michael-Martinez was killed Friday night in Isla Vista, Calif.David McNew / Getty Images

In 2001, UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang rushed to Little Acorn Park shortly after midnight Feb. 23 after David Attias, a UCSB freshman and, like Rodger, the son of a Hollywood director, slammed his car into parked vehicles and pedestrians. Four people were killed.

On the verge of tears himself, Yang spent the night comforting crying students after "this terrible tragedy."

After last week's rampage, Yang and his staff quickly put together a counseling and healing plan. They quickly canceled Tuesday's classes but asked all faculty and staff to report to campus to be available to meet with students, "because our academic community needs a space for talking and healing as well as mourning."

"I want the parents to know that their kids didn't do anything wrong. Their kids did not deserve this at all."

They set up extended walk-in advising hours all week. They prepared special materials for faculty and staff to guide them in counseling their students and colleagues.

"I have never seen anything this bad," Yang said after Attias' attack 13 years ago. Now, he is seeing it again, and he has compelled to use the same word he used in 2001 to describe the community's anguish — "terrible."

"As terrible as these past two days have been, they make us believe in our students and the entire UCSB community more than ever," he said Monday.