A mass shooting occurred in Thousand Oaks, California on Wednesday at the Borderline Bar and Grill where 13 people were killed, including the gunman.
About 380 miles away from the scene, UC Berkeley students who are from Thousand Oaks woke up to various social media notifications, along with phone calls and messages from families and friends about the shooting.
“I woke up, and my roommate’s alarm had gone off, and I had all these texts from my mom and all these friends. I went to the bathroom and took my phone in there and I couldn’t really process it,” said campus freshman Emma Roth, who is from Thousand Oaks.
Thousand Oaks is home to a small but diverse community. Everyone within the town at least knew of each other, and like in many small towns, there is always one hot spot where members of the community could frequent, according to campus freshman Justin Hong, who is also from Thousand Oaks.
Borderline, a country-western bar that was popular amongst the whole community, is Thousand Oaks’ hot spot.
According to Hong, Borderline was the only bar in the town that was open to people 18 and older. He explained how there wasn’t much to do, and Borderline was a welcoming place.
“My first thought was maybe it wasn’t that bad, and then I saw on social media that 12 people had died — and that’s when I lost it,” Roth said. “No one ever expects it to be their own community, and it doesn’t take away that shock.”
Hong recalled watching a dozen people he knew and went to high school with crying on TV as they talked about the shooting. Looking through his contacts on his phone, Hong said there were about 50 people he used to go to Borderline with and about 30 of them were there that night. He said he had personally known four victims, two of which were his close friends.
“Borderline’s a family place, where everybody knows everybody. One thing about country strong is that when we’re hit, we don’t back down,” Hong said in a Facebook message. “We stand up stronger.”
Much of the “Borderline family” line danced in the parking lot Saturday night, and community members plan to dance together every Saturday night until Borderline reopens.
“That was a small victory for us, knowing our home would be open again and our family would be reunited,” Hong said in a Facebook message. “It keeps hope, keeps the tradition going, and keeps the family together.”
Many students continue to speak affectionately about Borderline but also emphasized the strength of their community and elaborated on how Thousand Oaks should not be known or associated with tragedy.
Campus senior Julie Gonzalez said Thousand Oaks faced two tragedies within 24 hours, from the shooting to the Woolsey Fire.
“I learned that when your community is in pain, the best you can do is come together and help support one another,” Gonzalez said. “My Thousand Oaks being one of the safest cities in the U.S., the events that unfolded this past week are not something we ever thought would happen or something we wanted to be known for.”
She said that while her community cannot change what it is known for, it can change how it is remembered because of how united and supportive everyone has been.
“I guess this is the best you could do in the end — to love, help and support one another. Take a moment to think about your loved ones, your homes, and give thanks, and let your loved ones know how you feel because life changes in an instant,” Gonzalez said.
Students found solace within their campus community through the Friday evening candlelight vigil but also through their home’s strong sense of spirit and perseverance.