‘This Is Life Now.’ A Year After the Borderline Bar Mass Shooting, Families Reveal How They Move Forward

on Nov8
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2019-11-08 03:59:18

They wanted to dance.

They wanted to take a break from work or school.

In one of the safest cities in the United States, it didn’t seem like a bar they’d have to worry about.

It’s been a year since the lives of 12 families were shattered Nov. 7, 2018, when a Marine combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan opened fire in the crowded Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. 

Twelve people were killed, and then the gunman killed himself. 

Those who lived, 248 survivors, would have to learn how to move on from the tragedy and chaos in the year that followed. 

“It’s as if you have your heart ripped out and there’s a hole… it will stay that way,” Susan Orfanos, mother of victim Telemachus, said.

“We’re still grieving,” Jason Coffman said, whose son Cody was slain. “There’s a lot of people who haven’t come to cope with it yet. Then there’s people like myself who have come to realize this is life now. This is the way it’s got to be.”

As the sun rose on the foggy morning of Nov. 7, 2019, mourners gathered at the Borderline Bar & Grill where a shrine to each life lost was adorned with flowers, art, plants and crosses.

“It’s a day we never want to repeat but one we never want to forget,” said Mayor Rob McCoy, who hadn’t set foot on the property since the attack.

“Our community was shattered here,” he said.

Many affected by the shooting have noted they didn’t have a chance to mourn, as a destructive wildfire erupted more than a dozen hours after the massacre.

“We didn’t have a chance to mourn. We did the vigil that evening and when I came back I was evacuated from my own house,” McCoy said.

As the gunman entered the bar at 11:15 p.m. PT Nov. 7 , 2018, dressed in all black and armed to the teeth, chaos ensued. Patrons who had just been line-dancing began hurling bar stools through windows to escape.

Reports said they believe the gunman even fired on victims in bathroom stalls as they tried to flee.

First responders and victims charged the gunman in a last-ditch courageous effort to halt the barrage of bullets.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran who was soon to retire, was among those who ran toward the threat.

Telemachus Orfanos had survived the Route 91 mass shooting in Las Vegas the year before. But he wouldn’t survive this one.

“My son came home. All those other people they can’t say that,” his mother Susan said of Vegas. “Thirteen months and six days later, Tel didn’t come home.”

Kristina Morisette greeted patrons at the Borderline Bar. 

As her parents mourn a year later, they encourage others to seek support. Mental health experts agree, saying the anniversary can sneak up on the community.

“They felt like ‘Oh, I didn’t need it,’ but now that the one-year mark is coming up, they’re really feeling the effects of it,” said Kirsti Thompson, director of Give an Hour California.

It’s unclear why the former machine gunner committed this atrocity.

“People will debate for years whether I’m sane or insane,” his social media posts prior to the attack read, paraphrased by sources close to the investigation.

“Not a day goes by that we do not think about our friends and family who we have lost. This past year has been extremely difficult for all of us as a community, but together we have helped each other move forward and continue our healing process one day at a time. After that tragic night last November our Borderline family became stronger and closer than ever before,” Borderline Bar & Grill staff said in a note posted to the website.

We’re following the families’ stories and checking in with them a year later, to hear about the struggles, kindness of strangers, and what life is like now.

View more coverage and stories:

THOUSAND OAKS, CA – NOVEMBER 08: Mourners cry and comfort each other during a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on November 8, 2018 in Thousand Oaks, California. Twelve people including a Ventura County Sheriff sergeant and the gunman died in the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill . (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Photo credit: Getty Images


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