I spent the first 20 years of my life in a small town in California that most people had never ever heard of until this morning. As soon as I moved away to go to college I found myself explaining my hometown as halfway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
Yesterday that all changed.
Yesterday my hometown was on every major news channel, social media outlet, and in everyone’s conversations when they talked about that horrible thing that happened in Thousand Oaks, California. As of yesterday, the bar that I once spent carefree nights laughing and dancing with my friends will now be known for the tragedy that occurred when one man decided to take the lives of other human beings and turn a college night out into a shooting spree. I picked up the phone and dialed all of the numbers of all of the friends and family back home thanking God one by one as they answered and told me “yeah I’m safe”. But every single one of them was also followed by “You remember so and so he was there” or “My boyfriend’s dad was one of the people shot”. One of my family members even shared with me that they had spoken to our friend who was there and witnessed this horrible event. As I listened to her explain what our friend had recalled – blood, broken glass, as well as individuals throwing chairs through windows in order to escape and jump down a 15 foot drop to try to remain safe and not get shot I was paralyzed in fear with a mixture of memories of my nights at this bar.
I could not help but slip away to images of me standing in the middle of that dance floor I knew so well then the sharp words from the news of screaming and fear came flooding into my memory.
I’ve seen other stories of shootings on the news and said prayers for those strangers impacted very rarely knowing someone close to the tragedy. A friend from high school was in the crowd during in the Las Vegas shooting and I remember thinking how scared I was for her and how horrible it must feel having your hometown no longer feel safe. I had always enjoyed a certain level of security knowing that I could always go back to my home the third safest city in America and trust that I would be safe as well as my family. When I had my first daughter my husband and I made the decision to move away from a town that we didn’t think was safe to raise a family in and had considered moving back to California. I wanted my girls to have the safe “leave your doors unlocked” childhood that I grew up with.
I am mourning the fact that the world I grew up in no longer exists not only in my hometown but I fear in our country.
So many people have responded with comments such as “what is going on in the world today?” or “what’s wrong with people these days?”. What scares me the most is that I am not even close to having an answer to that question and I have a master’s degree in human behavior in psychology. I’ve dedicated my life to trying to make a difference and to help others feel safe and successful.
This weekend I am flying to Las Vegas for a conference and contemplating making the 5-Hour drive back to my hometown to be with friends and family. The fact that in one trip I will be in two cities where mass shootings have occurred is completely unacceptable to me. This should not be the norm. It should not happen at all. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. And freedom from the fear of being shot while you were out enjoying yourself with friends absolutely should be part of that freedom. I understand the shooter stood to protect our freedom at one point in his life. Being married to a soldier I see glimpses of the stress and training one goes through in order to accept this responsibility. I have to wonder if we are doing enough to support these men and women when they return home. Home, there’s that word again.
People always say that this “hits close to home” but for me, this is home.
What happens when the word home no longer holds with it a feeling of comfort and safety but rather thinking about of your hometown brings thoughts of shooting and blood. As I send my thoughts and prayers up to Heaven to be with those whose lives were lost and out to California to be with those friends and family members of those individuals who lost their lives as well as to wrap around those who were injured or had a loved one or family member who is injured I’m also raising something else, my voice. Through these words, through my conversations in the next few days, weeks, and months as well as through any other means that I am blessed with so that hopefully no other human being, mother, child will live through than sensation of having their hometown memorialized as where a mass shooting occurred. Tonight it is this blog tomorrow I hope that every major news outlet has this message rather than reporting on another mass shooting.
I’m not sure what to write next finding closure to this blog is as foreign to me as finding closure to what happened in Thousand Oaks on November 7th. But I know that I can’t wait to close this laptop and go crawl into bed with my two beautiful daughters and my amazing husband and hold them as close as possible and thank God that they are home with me and safe but that lurking sensation remains of how long will my home be safe?
I can no longer live in the warm ignorance of believing that it won’t happen to me.
That’s been taken from me. And I will mourn that loss this evening. My loss though is not nearly as painful as those who lost loved ones in this senseless shooting.