I’ve had this window on my computer open for two weeks, the cursor blinking over and over. But I didn’t know what to write. The words are gone.
On November 8, we woke up the news that America’s latest mass-shooting had taken place in my town, Thousand Oaks, California.
I grew up in Thousand Oaks. It’s where Mike and I decided to raise our children. I would brag to Mike, “It’s consistently on the top of the ‘Safest Cities in America list!'” It’s the type of place where you can call to report a fender bender and twelve police cars will show up because they don’t have anything else to do. It’s the type of place where everyone knows everyone, something I hated when I was a teenager but I love now that I have kids of my own.
When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to move somewhere more exciting. Somewhere that had more than three things to do after 8pm. “You can only go to Borderline so many times,” I used to say. So I left. And even though my time in New York City and Los Angeles was everything I hoped, a part of me always knew I’d be back.
I wanted my children to grow up playing with neighbor kids. I wanted them to be able to walk to school. I wanted them to have a childhood surrounded by majestic oak trees and rolling green hills. I wanted them to be safe.
But nowhere feels safe anymore.
Two miles away from where my children slept, twelve people were murdered. At the hospital around the corner from my house, doctors and nurses tried valiantly to save them. The national news media descended on the streets I drive to go to the market…softball practice…my home.
Everything looks the same, but everything is different.
I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of my fellow parents as we dropped our kids off at school that day. The way the teachers carefully arranged their faces into expressions of love while they waited to hear if any of their former students had been killed. The way I had to arrange my own face when I had to tell my children what happened.
It’s been 16 days and I’m still in shock. In a town where everyone knows everyone, we all are. Thousand Oaks is on “the list” now. Our anonymity is gone. Our bubble no longer exists.
We were the site of America’s latest mass shooting. And tomorrow, it might be your town.