Friends and family of Vanessa Plotkin, a 21-year-old UC Berkeley student recently identified as a victim of the Oakland warehouse fire, describe her as radiant.
According to Melanie Asor, her next-door neighbor in Unit 2, Plotkin had an aura of positivity about her. A campus third-year, Plotkin transferred to UC Berkeley this semester and was studying sociology.
“She would glow,” said her father Gary Plotkin at an on-campus vigil. “I’ve never seen anyone glow like her.”
According to Gary Plotkin, his daughter was an extremely hard worker, always focused and persistent. Her childhood friend Olivia Green remembers that the two cried on the phone together when Plotkin was accepted to UC Berkeley.
Plotkin’s mother noted at the vigil that she could feel her daughter’s presence when they walked on campus. She added that her daughter loved UC Berkeley and its campus, where she felt like she belonged.
“The love and acceptance that exist in this community is who she is, who she’s always been since her birth,” Gary Plotkin said at the vigil.
On campus, Plotkin was a volunteer at radio station KALX and was enrolled in the Body Positive Decal, for which she was set to become a student facilitator.
According to Bhavani Bindiganavile, a campus junior and co-facilitator of the Body Positive Decal, Plotkin was a presence in the classroom, always open and never afraid to be vulnerable.
Students in the decal had to put together a presentation on their definition of beauty as their final project. Plotkin put together a two-minute video made up of pictures of her mother.
“I’m so grateful to have spent Thanksgiving weekend with her,” said her mother Valerie Quintos Plotkin at the vigil. “(I remember her) giving me such a big hug and big kiss on my cheek. … She had such a big heart.”
According to her high school classmate Erika Lisardi, Plotkin extended this love to her friends.
Plotkin and her roommate Jenny Morris, also a victim of the Oakland warehouse fire, were “inseparable” and shared a passion for art and music, according to Amalya Penso, who lived in the dorm next to theirs. Penso added that they were always smiling and frequented off-campus events.
“I remember seeing (Plotkin) that night, she was in a nice white fur coat,” Penso said. “That’s the impression I got from her. She wanted to go out and try new things. She didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing.”
At the vigil, her twin sister Victoria Plotkin remembered her sister’s ability to “make anything beautiful, anything funny, anything loved.” Even after death, Victoria Plotkin noted, her sister was still bringing people together.
“Vanessa passed in a fire on Dec. 2, but she’s still here,” Victoria Plotkin said at the vigil. “We can feel her everywhere. … I will love you and miss you forever, my greatest love, my greatest half, my greatest beauty.”