Waking up to our hometown trending on Twitter was strange. The reason why was horrifying. Whenever I used to tell someone I’m from Thousand Oaks, they look at me wondering where in the world that is. Now, however, that will change.
Over the past few weeks, our community has plastered the words “TOStrong” just about everywhere. It’s a powerful slogan but not as powerful as the stories behind it.
TOStrong means hundreds of people showing up at La Reina High the day after the Borderline shooting because Los Robles Hospital announced they needed blood, and then even more people bringing food and water to those waiting in line because the drive was not set up for such a large crowd. There were so many people there they had to send some away and set up other blood drives because so many wanted to help.
Here at TOHS, a monumental amount of love and support greeted students that day at school was unreal. I would like to thank the teachers and staff who reminded us that we are not alone, and we will in fact get through this. They’re right. Not a single one of us is alone in this, and I cannot stress that enough because everything we’ve been through isn’t anything anyone should be taking on by themselves.
The support did not stop at our school. When I heard my friend talk about how amazing it was to be on the field at her first NFL game, I was elated to hear her happy because she was at Borderline that night and hasn’t been the same since. There are no words for how grateful I am for her still being here.
The Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks all displayed the names of the Borderline shooting victims on their warm up jerseys at their games at the Staples Center. The NBA is one of the biggest sports stages in the world, so the impact of the shooting clearly spread beyond Thousand Oaks.
That same day, the Woolsey Fire put our city’s strength to the test even further.
Waking up to my neighbor ringing my doorbell telling me to evacuate was terrifying to say the least. However, as I was evacuating I looked around at my room and realized: It’s all just stuff. Of course, I love my stuff, but it is replaceable. Lives are not. I was fortunate enough to return four days later to my fully intact, slightly ashy home, so thank you to the fire truck that parked on my street making sure every house in my neighborhood, right up against the now charred Hillcrest Open Space, made it through the week.
Not everyone was so lucky, so I would like to take this opportunity to say: my condolences.
The amount our city came together in peak chaos was impressive, but once things settled down, TO took it to another level.
Even though we had two weeks off of school, ASB made sure every student who lost their home at least still had a backpack, and Project Concern kept their tradition of ensuring every TOHS student had a Thanksgiving dinner. It warms my heart to know that we are resilient enough to come together and support each other in times of tragedy.
The Ventura County Community Foundation set up fundraising for the Borderline, Woolsey and Camp Fire victims. There are also countless fundraisers on GoFundMe to donate to specific families and organizations in need. Many people were not directly affected by these events, and they were left wondering what they could do to help. Fundraisers were up and running in no time, and United Way of LA’s raised over a million dollars for those in need.
What I feel that more people should realize is there’s no expiration date on grief. Just a few days ago, surfers paddled out in Cornado, Calif. to commemorate Justin Meek’s death. Even a month later, it is more than okay to still be working through the tragedy we have endured.
Thousand Oaks has been through a lot to say the least, but after seeing how we’ve come together in light of these tragedies, I have never been so proud to be a part of this community. Hang in there, Lancers. We are Thousand Oaks strong.