As fires again rage in our backyard, it feels too familiar, too soon. Only one year ago our community experienced twin tragedies. The terror of the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill brought our darkest night. Less than 24 hours later, the devastating flames of the Woolsey Fire lit up that dark night. Glued to our televisions and social media accounts, we watched these events transpire with raw emotions—fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, sadness, grief, shock, dismay—and our children watched as well. They watched the adults in their lives respond to what might be the most intense experiences our community has encountered. The Twin Tragedies forever marked the childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood of an entire generation of young people. Many of them and many of us are trauma survivors.

The young survivors among us may still react to reminders of Borderline or Woolsey. They may have acute memories of not being able to get to loving family during evacuations after having been at Borderline the night before. They may panic in large crowds. They may profoundly mourn the loss of a home or a loved one. They may smell smoke and immediately become agitated. Some might numb themselves with substances, sex, relationships, or technology. These stress reactions are common reactions to all types of trauma; they are not always visible or discussed. They are also not a sign of weakness. Many community members of all ages experienced anxiety and grief after only an indirect experience with these events. With the return of the winds, fires, and evacuations, many of us are remembering a compound trauma never before seen in Ventura County. Have you asked yourself how you are doing? How your neighbor is doing? Most of all, have you asked your children and grandchildren? They learn about resilience from our communication. Have you communicated?

As parents and friends of young people, we can mitigate the effects of something that most of us have never experienced before. There are resources out there for the parents, teachers, school counselors, and other helpers who want to respond to those who are hurting. Interface Children and Family Services exists to strengthen families. We offer mental health services to over 500 children, youth, and adults annually. If you or a young person you love are feeling strongly affected by the events of last year, please seek support. Turn to one another. You can talk to family and friends about your needs; they want to know. You can ask loved ones about their needs; they need to share. You can visit our website or call 2-1-1, our region’s largest referral contact center, to receive a list of available mental health resources for you and your family. In our response work over the last year, we have seen that gathering together is helpful to many people. To facilitate providing connection and communication for survivors, we are planning our second Unite Gathering for mid-November. The Unite Gathering is a survivor driven social gathering where survivors and families affected by the shooting events at the Borderline Bar and Grill & Route 91 Harvest Festival unite to support each other as peers. Events such as these are beautiful opportunities for connection and healing, and there are several happening this week within our community.

Thousand Oaks Remembers will host one such event on November 8th at 7pm, at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Center, Scherr Forum Theatre. This storytelling event will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedies from November 2018 including the shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill as well as the Woolsey and Hill fires. Attendees will come together to hear stories told from various perspectives within the Thousand Oaks community to remember and reflect. The evening will also include musical and dance performances from local artists. Tickets are $15, and for sale here- Proceeds will fund the next Unite Gathering.

What we witnessed last year has an enduring effect, and we must do the work of remembering well. As we reflect on the anniversary of the Twin Tragedies of November 2018, we can help our children learn about resilience by showing them how to talk about emotion, how to seek help when necessary, and how to connect as a community.

With respect and compassion, 


Joelle Vessels
Director of Mental Health Services

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