As Sunday came in Thousand Oaks, people turned to all the things that brought them comfort.
Following a week of double tragedies — a bar shooting that killed 12 and a fire that displaced thousands — many flocked to church and family.
At Ascension Lutheran, the pews were packed with parishioners during the morning service. Pastor Tim Delkeskamp spoke about the grief and suffering that’s rocked the community.
Children were called to the altar and asked: “Have any of you been scared in the last few days? Have any of you felt confused?”
The kids and many adults said yes.
Most were still trying to make sense of so much loss in such little time. Just days ago, Thousand Oaks felt a long way from harm, tucked away among knolls and mountains. Now, nearly everyone knew someone who was killed at the bar, burned out by the fire or displaced by evacuations.
“This is when we don’t let fear have its way. Instead we love,” Delkeskamp told his church after sharing that his niece was also on the dance floor the night of the shooting.
Two miles south at Borderline Bar and Grill, yellow tape blocked anyone from entering the neighborhood bar that Ian David Long, a troubled 28-year-old ex-Marine, turned into a crime scene.
Dozens of shooting survivors gathered beneath a giant oak tree. They wore shirts paying tribute to Thousands Oaks and their favorite bar. They held hands and prayed, forming a circle led by a local pastor.
“This morning this is our church,” said Pastor Jim Crew of Atmosphere Church, who attended the memorial. “I want you to give someone next to you a hug. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know them.”
Mourners had turned one corner of the plaza into a colorful memorial. White wooden crosses formed a line honoring every victim. Among them: a sheriff’s sergeant, a Marine, a coffee shop owner and several college students and bar employees. Each station was covered with flowers, candles and love notes:
To Sgt. Ron Helus: Thank you for being a hero. You will never be forgotten.
To Kristina Morisette: I will miss you forever my beautiful girl.
To Jake Dunham: Have a few brews up there for us!
Across the city, people spent the weekend trying to help. Some hung giant American flags from the back of their trucks. Some held fundraisers and donated water bottles and coffee to evacuees and shooting survivors. Others wore shirts that said: “Care. Serve. Love.”
A group of survivors from last year’s mass shooting at the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest music festival drove in with a trunk full of teddy bears.
“We’re here to simply give hugs and show some love,” said Terry Davis of Las Vegas.
Longtime friends Julie Feinstein and Kim Kennison, both 54, comforted each other by meeting for coffee. Both knew of families who had lost children in the shooting.
Kennison was also housing friends who had been evacuated due to the Woolsey fire. And Feinstein, who lives in Newbury Park, was prepared to evacuate her home at any moment.
Feinstein said she felt so overwhelmed when the shooting happened. Then, within hours, like so many of her neighbors, she had to put her feelings aside and pack all her belongings.
“I’m still trying to understand what’s happened,” she said. “I just feel this sadness and devastation for people around us.”