It was an event that will never be forgotten, the mass shooting the night of Wednesday, November 7, 2018, in the small City of Thousand Oaks. It was a beautiful clear night and it was “College Country Music Night” at the Borderline Bar & Grill. This country-western bar was known as a very popular venue for college students to gather for dancing, food, and friendship. Yet on that night, a loan gunman walked in shortly after 11 PM and started shooting. That night this quiet safe city and its community was forever changed.
The gunman shot and killed twelve people and wounded twenty-one. One of the victims was Sgt. Ron Helus, a 28-year veteran. Ron Helus, without hesitation rushed into the bar and the gunman opened fire. This brave man, a Christian, died later at the local hospital. Sgt. Ron would have retired in a few months. His efforts bought valuable time for others to escape.
During the shooting, there were many students from the local universities, Pepperdine and CLU, attending the Country Night. Some of these students became instant heroes as they smashed windows and got other people out. There was a case of one young man who saved three women. In addition, there were a number of people that had survived the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Young men and women were bravely working together to get each other to safety. It was difficult to do as there were nearly 200 there that night!
During the days following this tragic event, it was amazing how the community came together to assist in any way they could. A few miles away, La Reina High School held a blood drive the next morning. Dozens of people lined up for hours, waiting to give blood. While they were waiting in line, good people were handing out slices of pizza, candy treats, or small bottles of water.
Later that night, Mayor Andy Fox spoke at the local Civic Center where more than 1,800 people attended. This amazing mayor then drove to a local Catholic church where Archbishop Gomez made the long trip to be present at a prayer service. At that prayer service, Mayor Fox requested that we reach out as a community and attend some of the funerals/memorials of the victims.
There were also more public events such as last-minute fundraisers and the start of memorials. It was a moving tribute to see the procession of police cars for Sgt. Ron Helus and hundreds of people standing at numerous locations where the vehicles would pass. All of these fundraisers and memorials were put together by people in their community that shared great love and empathy.
The Sunday morning that followed the mass shooting, dozens parked their cars blocks away to walk over to join the many that were praying together for the victims and their families.
The loss of these twelve people was great not only for their families but for an entire community that has always been close. It is a constant reminder that we need to look out for each other, we need to support each other when tragic events happen and we need to show our love. This small City of Thousand Oaks has been a shining light for the whole nation in their outreach and compassion.
“My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in words and action.” (1 John 3:18)
Copyright 2018 Leslie Lenko
About the Author: Leslie Lenko is a Catholic fundraiser/event coordinator. She assists with a mental health ministry at St. Julie Billiart where she coordinated a deanery wide event this past May. She is also an Associate of the Sisters of Notre Dame. At her own Southern CA parish she is involved in Team Adoration, festival chair team, etc. A retired Elementary Religious Ed teacher/Vocations Promoter, she does what she can to promote mental health awareness. Leslie resides with her daughter, husband, and puppy named Sushi.