The past three weeks have gone by in a blur. I’m just starting to get back to “normal.” Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m going to write here. But I know I need to try. For me, writing is therapeutic.
I’ve had some time to process the horrific events that shattered my community of Thousand Oaks, CA — the mass shooting and devastating wildfires. Sometimes it feels like it never could’ve happened, that it was a bad dream.
But it was all too real.
It’s hard to describe how it felt to hear the gut-wrenching news that a shooter killed twelve people at a popular country bar in our tight-knit, safe city. And hours later, to receive a mandatory evacuation order because our home was in “imminent danger” of a fast moving fire.
Each event was tragic enough on its own. But together? Unbelievable.
None of us had time to mourn those murdered at the Borderline Bar & Grill, before we had to pack our cars and rush to leave, worried our homes might burn.
My daughters and I were talking about this the other day, how it seemed like it wasn’t fair that the shooting didn’t get the immediate attention it deserved, because of the fires. Not that anyone could help it… But still.
Now that the smoke has cleared — literally — our community is able to grieve the twelve innocent souls who lost their lives much too soon.
Thousands have visited a beautiful memorial at an intersection near the Borderline bar. A man from another state made twelve white wooden crosses with each victim’s name on them. There are photos, American flags, candles, angel wings, hearts, and so, so many flowers.
People wrote poems, letters, and messages to the victims, like God has 12 new angels, We love you, and You died a hero; and notes to the community, such as T.O. Strong. And, We will get through this TOgether.
My husband and I visited the memorial late one Saturday night. The grandparents of one of the boys killed were there, standing vigil by their grandson’s cross. It was so sad to see the grandmother break down as she read the loving messages and mementos left for her grandson.
Disasters bring people together. It’s heartwarming to see neighbors working to help support those who lost so much. There are memorials, fundraisers, and vigils scheduled throughout December and beyond.
I’m more than grateful that my family and home are both safe. I wasn’t directly affected — well, yes I was, because I live here. I didn’t lose my home or a child in the shooting. But my daughters know kids who were there and lived through that horror. One of my friend’s friend lost her son.
The shooting and fires affected the entire community in some way. It’s hard to push these tragedies aside and move forward. I guess that’s part of healing. It can’t be rushed.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the shooting victims and how hard it must be for their families. And of the hundreds of people who lost their homes and the three who died in the fires, unable to escape. It seems especially difficult now that it’s the holiday season.
My heart breaks for all of them. And I know it will for a long, long time. These harrowing events changed our community forever. We will never forget.
Together, we’ll heal. It just takes time.