Why We Shouldn’t Forget Thousand Oaks, California

My hometown was attacked on Wednesday night, November 7th, 2018. Another mass shooting added to the list that will forever leave a scar on the people of Thousand Oaks, but has already exited the news cycle a week after the fact.

Mass shootings have rattled our country for years and have only escalated with countless deaths and injuries. The thought that closes in as these tragedies refuse to stop is, “When will this happen to us?”. To hear that an active shooter walked into Thousand Oaks’ Borderline Bar & Grill and killed 12 people made my stomach flip. This is a place my friends and I in the community attended and enjoyed. It is a place where the people of T.O. could gather and dance to music and celebrate life. Articles from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and CNN burst onto social media and soon enough, our community was the #1 Trending topic on Twitter.

Courtesy of the New Yorker.

Thousand Oaks, California is not known to many people across the country. But, anyone who has ever heard of it knows just how unlikely an event like this would occur here. As of 2013, Thousand Oaks was ranked the 4th safest city in the United States. Mayor Andy Fox even told CNN, “We are consistently ranked one of the highest with respect to the lowest crime rate per capita; we're proud of that.”

Courtesy of KCUR.

What Happened

Wednesday nights at Borderline are college nights, where anyone 18+ can enter. People dance, eat, drink, and enjoy country music. A little after 11 P.M., the shooter identified as Ian David Long, walked in dressed in black. He possessed a Glock 21 and an extended magazine clip with 26-round capacity. He threw smoke grenades shortly before shooting the bouncer, cashier, and other employees. Long proceeded to shoot into the crowd on the dancefloor before committing suicide inflicted by gunshot.

Courtesy of KXLY.

Twelve people were confirmed dead as a result of the mass shooting. College students, graduates, husbands, sons, and daughters were taken too quickly while enjoying a Wednesday night at a fun community space. These victims will and should never be forgotten.

Courtesy of CNN.

The victims were people of Thousand Oaks with hopes, memories, fears, and futures. Each individual made a significant impact on their community.

Alaina Housley, 18. A Student at Pepperdine University.

Courtesy of Abc13 Houston.

Kristina Morisette, 20. Morisette was reportedly working as a cashier at Borderline the night of November 7th.

Courtesy of CNN.

Mark “Marky” Meza Jr., 20. Meza was an employee at Borderline Bar & Grill from Carpinteria, CA.

Courtesy of CNN.

Noel Sparks, 21. A Student at Moorpark College.

Courtesy of Thousand Oaks Acorn.

Blake Dingman, 21. A former baseball player at Hillcrest Christian School and beloved friend, brother, and son.

Courtesy of ABC7 Chicago.

Jake Dunham, 21. A friend of Blake Dingman’s and beloved friend, son, and member of the community.

Courtesy of ABC7 Chicago.

Cody Coffman, 22. A beloved brother and son. Coffman reportedly helped save others during the shooting.

Courtesy of Fox10 Phoenix.

Justin Meek, 23. A recent graduate from California Lutheran University. Meek also reportedly helped others escape and worked at the Veterans Association.

Courtesy of ABC7 Chicago.

Telemachus Orfanos, 27. A survivor of the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.

Courtesy of CNN.

Dan Manrique, 33. A Marine Corps Veteran.

Courtesy of CNN.

Sean Adler, 48. A bouncer at Borderline Bar & Grill and former wrestling coach.

Courtesy of CNN.

Sgt. Ron Helus, 51. Helus was on duty and responded to the call about the active shooting.

Courtesy of USA Today.

Following the tragedies of November 7th, blasts on social media and national news covered the event with information flowing into the news cycle. Tweets and social media posts of the incident spread rapidly. From all over the country, people sent love to Thousand Oaks and most importantly, the loved ones of the fallen victims.

Screenshot from Twitter.

Screenshot from Twitter.

Screenshot from Twitter.

Unfortunately, there was also an uproar of political agendas being pushed in the immediate hours following such a horrific event. I am not writing this article to give my political opinion on the matter, given that events like these should not be directly seen as polarizing. These are not partisan issues, these are human issues. There is no question that this event should not have occurred in the first place. However, some decided to ignorantly comment on gun ownership legislation and political issues right away, as if they experienced the shooting at Borderline themselves.

Screenshot from Twitter.

What can we, as humans, and people of the United States, do after something so traumatizing like this?

The most crucial approach is to never forget the events that occurred on November 7th, 2018. We cannot forget the victims and the lives they led. We must honor them every day. We also cannot forget the events that occurred at Columbine High School, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Las Vegas, Parkland, Sutherland Springs, and Pittsburgh Synagogue. It’s been a little more than a week since the Thousand Oaks shooting, and the story is already slowly fading away and out of the news cycle. With California wildfires adding onto the devastation our community, mass shootings have become normalized without us knowing it.

Courtesy of CNN.

As of today, there have been 313 shootings in 2018 alone in the United States according to the official Gun Violence Archive organization. Today, the 18th of November, marks the 322nd day of the year. That makes a shooting almost every day of the year.

Courtesy of Business Insider.

Once again, it is no question that this number is far too great. What we need to do as citizens of the world is to change the way our system is functioning. Multiple facets such as gun ownership legislation and mental health care need to be reformed to prevent the unnecessary deaths of others in the future. Long was a former marine inflicted with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He had multiple run-ins with local police, including a call for the mental health crisis team to arrive at his house for acting “irrationally.” Long still had access to a semi-automatic weapon with an extended magazine.

Courtesy of NPR.

Following the tragedies were also recorded statements made by the loved ones of the victims. Susan Orfanos, the mother of victim Telemachus Orfanos, was interviewed on November 8th and claimed that there is nothing else she wanted besides gun control. Her son was a survivor at the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 and did not come home that night from Borderline. The distaste towards “prayers” sent to the loved ones is growing. Orfanos demands for actual change.  

https://twitter.com/ABC7Veronica/status/1060671145660141568

Jason Coffman, father of 22-year old Cody Coffman, spoke on November 8th as well after learning his son was one of the victims.

https://twitter.com/latimes/status/1060665862376448000

These words should never be forgotten. The loved ones of the victims have spoken of their unbearable heartbreak and the need for change. Thousand Oaks will not be another statistic on the list of mass shootings. We cannot let this happen again. The people of my hometown are a strong, loving community who did absolutely nothing to deserve this. It should never take a close relation, religious affiliation, race, or geographic proximity to be devastated by these tragedies. Let’s work together to honor those lost and remember what matters most.

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