Wildfire Cut Their Grieving Short, Now Residents Of Thousand Oaks Remember Victims
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
When a gunman in Thousand Oaks, Calif., shot and killed a dozen people at a bar last month, there was no time to grieve. Within 24 hours, the city and nearby communities were battling wildfires that forced people to evacuate. Now people are back and trying to make up for lost time with dozens of events to remember the victims and to raise money for their families. NPR's Ina Jaffe attended some of them.
INA JAFFE, BYLINE: No place in Thousand Oaks seems untouched by the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill, even a strip mall sandwich shop like Jersey Mike's.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: No tomatoes...
JAFFE: Half of this day's proceeds went to the families of the victims. Store manager Brian Murray doesn't see this place as just some franchise chain store. He feels it's part of the community.
BRIAN MURRAY: I know pretty much all my customers that come in here by first name, by their sandwich. And I - you know, I wanted to do my part.
JAFFE: Because he sees his customers are hurting.
MURRAY: I've seen people come through the line crying about their friends who were - who passed, and the next person is picking them up. And I'm here to make sure that they eat and just feel better looking forward.
JAFFE: Food may be more nurturing than getting zapped with an inky needle.
(SOUNDBITE OF TATTOO GUN BUZZING)
JAFFE: But Dire Wolf Tattoo and Fine Art was packed during their benefit for shooting victims' families says owner Jeff Johnson.
JEFF JOHNSON: It started out really chaotic 'cause there was, like, 10, 15 people standing in the rain out in front of the shop. So we opened the doors early, and we were cranking all day long.
JAFFE: Till midnight actually. Johnson grew up around here. And if you grow up around here, you have some connection to the Borderline Bar & Grill where the shooting was.
JOHNSON: I had brothers that worked there as bouncers and sisters that worked there as bartenders. And when it happened, it just seemed like a really good opportunity to - OK, let's just, like, drop everything and just do a day where we can give something back to the community here.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
JAFFE: This shooting also hit close to home at Rock City Studios, a performance hall and music school in the nearby city of Camarillo. Ann DeMartini is the co-owner.
ANN DEMARTINI: Several people that work for us at Rock City know somebody that was killed at the tragedy.
JAFFE: So there was no question that there would be a benefit for victims' families here. Rock City Studios also held a benefit for people affected by the shooting at the concert in Las Vegas last year and helped people who lost their homes in the recent wildfires. For DeMartini, the heartbreaks are just coming too fast.
DEMARTINI: We need more love and joy in the world. There's not enough. It just seems like there's something missing lately.
JAFFE: Since the shooting, there have been more than 70 events, memorials, vigils and fundraisers in the Thousand Oaks area. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised to help families with funeral costs and other needs. A calendar of events has been posted on the website of the Borderline Bar & Grill. Brian Hynes, the owner, said his staff put that together.
BRIAN HYNES: And we just feel like anything that's going near the community - if people need to get out or cope or talk to somebody, we want to make sure they know all these events are going on.
JAFFE: Hynes spoke outside of another benefit where he'd stopped to say thank you. Inside, there was food, cocktails, live music and dancing. It seemed like a party. But Hynes said events like this accomplish so much more.
HYNES: This helps everybody heal. It helps me heal and me to get through it myself.
JAFFE: There are more memorials and fundraisers coming up. The Borderline Bar & Grill is sponsoring a benefit in January. It will be held at another venue, though. Hynes hasn't decided yet if the Borderline will open again. Ina Jaffe, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.