Blaine County native Miranda Gasenica witnessed some of the mayhem in Isla Vista, Calif., on Friday night as a young man went on a rampage, killing two University of California at Santa Barbara sorority girls and four other people, before allegedly killing himself.
“I’m just trying to stay positive,” said Gasenica, who graduated from Wood River High School and is now a freshman at the university. “I hope people will see that and stay positive also.”
The alleged killer, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, injured 13 more before apparently killing himself. He left abundant messages on the Internet stating that his violence was due to being rejected by women.
Gasenica, 19, and fellow Gamma Phi Beta sorority sister Annie Aphay, 20, were taking a study break at 9:30 p.m. Friday and walking to a Starbucks in Isla Vista when they saw a policeman running down the street.
“He was pulling out his gun, and he yelled for us to get inside,” Gasenica said.
The two women ducked into Hana Kitchen restaurant on Pardall Road, across the street from I.V. Deli Mart, where one of Rodger’s victims, Christopher Michael-Martinez, lay dead.
Gasenica and Aphay joined 20 others who were already hiding behind a counter at Hana Kitchen.
“Some were screaming. Others were crying,” Gasenica said. “One man, who had seen Martinez killed, was sick and vomiting.”
Gasenica called her mother to explain her situation and find comfort. She also sent Facebook messages to her sorority sisters to stay inside.
The two women stayed in hiding for 20 minutes, at which time ambulances arrived and police said the shooter had been killed. They were escorted back to their sorority house by police, passing by Martinez.
“It was so sad to see him lying there and to know there was nothing we could do for him,” Gasenica said.
Gasenica later discovered that two Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters, Veronika Weiss and Katie Cooper, had also been slain by Rodger.
Cooper and Gasenica had become acquainted on campus.
“I know he [Rodger] suffered some rejection, but I don’t know how anyone could ever kill people like this,” Gasenica said. “He said he was having a hard life, but he was driving around in a BMW. How hard could it be?”
On Friday night, Gasenica attended a candlelight vigil on the UCSB campus, where she heard stories about the student victims and listened to professors attempt to shed light on the tragedy.
“It was absolutely so sad,” Gasenica said. “Some of the stories were humorous, but every person in the crowd was crying.”
On Tuesday, four days after the killings, Gasenica said the UCSB campus is closed for a “day of mourning,” but with finals two weeks away, she has to get back to her studies.
“Even though this was a horrific event, we have to move on,” she said.
Gasenica is finishing her first year of studies toward a sociology degree, with minor studies in history and education. She said the ordeal will not keep her in hiding, but instead has inspired her to expand her life goals.
“This has really brought our school community together,” she said. “I plan to get more involved here. I want to learn how to surf. I want to study abroad.
“Life is fragile. You can’t take anything for granted.”