America Failed

For the last two hours, I have been trying to formulate words to accurately express what I am feeling. A playlist of many emotions has been on repeat ever since I woke up this morning, and I cannot seem to find the stop button. All day, I have been trying to unravel and untangle the messy mixture of feelings pooled together in my heart, but I have absolutely no clue where to begin. How am I supposed to properly dictate the feelings I have into a literary sound piece, if I cannot even understand them? As of right now, I am only sure of a few things. I am lost. I am heartbroken. I am enraged.

I try to maintain a balanced, positive outlook on life, but sometimes it is literally impossible. Just when you think life is perfectly brilliant, something awful happens and shatters the image you held dear. Life is openly brutal and bad things happen all the time, but sometimes things completely catch you off-guard. Sure, people get robbed, people get fired, people get divorced, people get cancer, but in this case, people got shot and killed. Today, innocent murder victims are the source of my emotional discomfort.

Innocent lives were taken just over 24 hours ago and I am thoroughly speechless. The lives of Americans have been involuntarily taken by yet another mass shooting. In less than a year, the United States has endured 307 mass murders all across the nation. Let me say that again. There have been 307 mass shootings in only 311 days. That averages out to there being a deadly incident almost every single day so far this year. In all, 328 people have died, 1,251 have been injured, and millions have been left to mourn the loss of loved ones. There was a bloodbath at a synagogue, which left 11 elderly people mutilated. As if it could not get worse, a football coach, an athletic director, and eager students were openly slaughtered at a high school on Valentine’s Day. Mass shootings have become today’s epidemic.

After countless deaths and injuries, our nation must have prioritized, organized, and taken measures to prevent these continuous murders and attempted murders from occurring, right? Wrong. Absolutely nothing has changed. Around 11:20 pm on November 8th, our nation’s most recent mass shooting left dozens injured and 12 people dead. Evidently, it is becoming crystal clear that America has no intention of stopping these murders and I am beginning to wonder what kind of nation we are becoming.

Borderline Bar and Grill is a restaurant in Thousand Oaks, California, recognized for its delicious food, spectacular beer, and comical line-dancing lessons. This restaurant is also famously known for hosting a College Night for anyone 18+ on Wednesday nights, which attracts hundreds of young, eager college students looking for a night of fun. Almost every Wednesday evening, students from all over the area pour into this establishment to relish the joys of life. The usual attendees were typically students from Cal Lutheran, Moorpark College, Cal State Channel Islands, and Pepperdine. The other night’s attendees were no different than usual, but what happened was far from expected. In addition to collegiates, there were two individuals celebrating their 21st birthdays at Borderline during the time of the shooting. Turning 21 is supposed to be a special, memorable milestone in a person’s life, but these two individuals will forever remember it as the night of the Thousand Oaks Massacre. 

Anxious parents, relatives, friends, and colleagues surrounded the bar in the early morning, hoping to see their loved ones walk out alive and unharmed; however, this is a reality that many did not experience. Not only were people murdered and maimed, hundreds of people were struck with heart-breaking sorrow upon the discovery that they had lost someone to this violent crime. Lives will forever be left empty from the loss of those taken from them in this act of cruelty. 

Image source: Pacific Standard

After the shooting occurred, I tied myself to my computer and obsessively read and reread every single article published on the Internet. I frantically searched for a list of identified victims and began to scroll down the list. Upon initially reading, the list of victims were just names of the dead, until I reached a name that I knew. It suddenly became all too real, a reality I was not prepared for. Upon my many tears of sadness and screams of anger, I thought to myself, “I did not expect to wake up to this.” It took me many hours of struggling to try and comprehend this unforeseen tragedy before I realized that I was lucky. I was lucky to be alive. Life is short and I realized just how much I took it for granted. These innocent, blameless people did not expect that they would be entering a restaurant and never coming out. They had no idea they would be dead before the clock struck midnight. These were real people who had real lives. Lives that they will never get to enjoy and live to the fullest. 

The shooter was a former United States Marine. According to many reports, he was likely suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a disorder that many Americans face after serving their country. Whether he was strictly battling a mental health issue or he merely going out of his way to murder people, it is unclear. Regardless of his motive, mass shootings have evidently plagued our nation and America needs to put a stop to it. Some argue we need more gun reform, which is undeniably a potential option that could severely lower crime rates. Opponents to gun reform suggest the center of our attention be mental health awareness and maintenance because “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. In relation to this issue, it is irrefutable that guns are not to blame for mass shootings, the shooters are. Despite all of this political banter, the issue is growing larger and nothing is being done to stop it. Mass shootings are contagiously spreading and it leaves me feeling absolutely unsafe everywhere I go.

Hearing about tragedies on the opposite side of the country is undeniably devastating, but watching them occur right here in California hits too close to home. Ironically, Thousand Oaks was ranked the third safest city in America before this shooting took place. If something this disastrous can happen in one of the “safest” towns in all of America, then no place is safe at all. Classrooms, grocery stores, synagogues, churches, and restaurants are no longer safe spaces. This list is growing longer after each incident, proving no place is immune. More details about the perpetrator and victims will be released within the next week, but this incident cannot simply be added to the long list of shootings. I am begging anyone who reads this to fight for a change. Speak up. Fight for a better nation. Right now, I am not proud of America and its lack of preventative measures for shootings.

America has failed the victims of the 307 mass shootings this year. America has failed the 2,123 murdered children and adults who have died in mass shootings since Sandy Hook. America has failed the victims’ families and friends. America has failed you. Attacks like this one leave millions of people all over the nation asking, “Am I next?” Until changes are made and preventative measures are established, we are all next

The Her Campus at UCD team sends our deepest regrets and sorrows to all of the victims, including the deceased students who will never graduate from their universities. We send our love and loyalty to all family and friends that have been struck by this attack.

Image source: Gannett CDN