The mothers of two UC Santa Barbara students slain in their apartment are calling on parents around the world to keep a better watch on their children. Christie Smith reports.
The mothers of two UC Santa Barbara students slain in an Isla Vista apartment last month are calling on parents worldwide to teach their children compassion and keep a closer watch on them, weeks after the bloody rampage that claimed six young innocent peoples' lives.
“We are not living our lives any more. We are surviving day by day,” said Kelly Wang. Her son, George Chen, 19, of San Jose, was fatally stabbed May 23 in his friends' apartment amid Elliot Rodger's killing spree in Isla Vista.
“Something needs to change,” she added, clutching the hand of Jane Liu, whose only son, Weihan “David” Wang, a 20-year-old from Fremont who was roommates with Rodger in the apartment where the men were killed, was also killed.
The two women and Chen’s father, Junan Chen, a software engineer at Juniper Networks, spoke exclusively to NBC Bay Area on Wednesday in the Chens' San Jose living room, adorned with uplifting Buddhist sayings to pass to guests as they exit their modest home.
A small shrine to their son was created in a small bedroom facing east – his photo, incense, a candle, Buddhist music and his favorite treats, potato chips and a bottle of Coke – were arranged to help his soul pass to a more peaceful place, his mother said.
"It is the parents’ responsibility to watch their children," Wang said, adding that her family's Chinese heritage meant close bonding between parents and their children. "We teach them community service and to care and love others. It is the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children are not so full of hatred."
“Our pain,” she added, “is unbearable, unspeakable. We hope we are the last family who has to experience this.”
Liu added that responsibility extends even further to that - to property managers who rent apartments, to police who conduct welfare checks, to family psychologists - and basically to anyone who notices inklings of trouble in a young person who may need help.
"Everybody in society has a responsibility," said Liu, an oncology nurse at Washington Hospital in Fremont. "This can be preventable."
George Chen’s ashes, along with the ashes of David Wang, will be buried somewhere together in the Bay Area, their parents said.
The parents of a third friend killed in the apartment that night — C.H., 20, of San Jose, whose family requested that his initials be used instead of his full name — were in China on Wednesday, burying their son’s ashes.
All three men were sophomores at UC Santa Barbara, and Chen had simply been visiting his buddies at the apartment they shared with Elliot Rodger.
Wang and C.H. had ended up rooming with Rodger after the complex's property manager randomly selected the three to live together based on the students' applications.
A shrine to slain UC Santa Barbara student George Chen was set up in his San Jose bedroom..
Kelly Wang specifically directed her words Wednesday to their sons' killer's father, Peter Rodger, a Hollywood director who worked on "The Hunger Games" and has an upcoming interview exclusive with ABC’s Barbara Walters.
Wang said they are worried all the attention will increase the focus on "the killing part of the story.”
Peter Rodger and his ex-wife said in a statement after the killings that they were "crying in pain" for the victims and their families. "It is now our responsibility to do everything we can to help avoid this from happening to any other family," they said.
Rodger did not immediately respond to an NBC Bay Area request for comment on Wednesday. However, a spokesman at Rodger Pictures said he would pass an emailed question to Rodger and his lawyers.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff told the public that Peter Rodger and Elliot Rodger’s mother had seen their son's violent 137-page manifesto just minutes before the rampage and had begun racing toward Santa Barbara – but it was too late.
Before they could get to Santa Barbara, Elliot Rodger had fatally stabbed the three men in his apartment and had begun a shooting spree that left another three UC Santa Barbara students dead.
Those victims were sorority sisters Katherine Breann Cooper, 22, of Chino Hills, and Veronika Elizabeth Weiss, 19, of Westlake Village, as well as Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20, of Los Osos, who was gunned down at a deli.
Elliot Rodger killed himself after the rampage.
Kelly Wang, a software engineer at SeaChange International, said she had tried to teach her son George to practice love and compassion from a young age.
When George was little, his mother taught him early to volunteer at such places as the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, where he learned to care for anyone in need. They would also feed the homeless together as a family and George often sang at a local nursing home. In high school, he tutored students in math.
Parents are their childrens' first teachers, she said. And if children show signs of mental illness, she said, then parents must do everything in their power to stay at their sides and help.
“Children are hungry for parents’ time, to be physically with them,” she said. “I would quit my job. I would check on him every day. I would invite friends to come over. I would make sure he was taking his medicine. This is more important that money.”
The irony, Wang and Liu said, was that if their sons had known that Elliot Rodger was in need or suffered from mental illness, they would have been the first to help.