Relief efforts ongoing as devastating wildfires have forced some 75,000 evacuations in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. USA TODAY
CAMARILLO, Calif. – Judy Goodman was sucker-punched. Twice.
The 70-year-old Thousand Oaks woman cried Thursday when she learned of the 12 people who came to dance at one of her old haunts, the Borderline Bar and Grill, and were killed by Ian David Long, a 28-year-old former Marine dressed in black. He later died of a gunshot believed to be self-inflicted.
In the shadow of the Wednesday night tragedy at a bar that Goodman's sons sometimes visits came Mother Nature's encore in the form of fire. The flames approached Goodman's home Thursday in the Westlake Hills neighborhood of Thousand Oaks. Powerful winds sent a branch crashing through her roof.
"I just wonder what's next," Goodman said Friday outside the evacuation center set up at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center. "There's so much chaos in the world."
That chaos targeted Ventura County and the Conejo Valley with an intensity that seemed unfair because it was.
As people across the region struggled to make sense of the brutal spraying of bullets, 95,000 people were pushed from their homes by the Woolsey and Hill fires.
"It's random. It doesn't make sense. A man snaps and he kills 13 people," said Thousand Oaks Mayor Pro Tem Rob McCoy who spent part of Thursday at a reunification center where families waited to find out if their loved ones died at the Borderline.
As he prepared for a vigil Thursday, McCoy learned his family needed to evacuate their home because of the Hill Fire. Friday morning, he visited evacuation centers to meet others chased from their homes.
"I could see it on the faces of folks, they were tired. The one thing I noticed with everybody is they were pulling together," he said. "We've been visited by absolute misery in the last couple of days. The sense of community is even stronger."
Pitching in to help others emerged as a coping mechanism.
Taylor Young was dancing in the Borderline on Wednesday when Long started firing. The 23-year-old from Moorpark survived the bullets, but learned three of her friends did not. They died.
She returned to the bar on Friday in sweatshirt, jeans and slippers with hopes of retrieving her car. It was a brief break from the nonstop activity of helping people evacuate from the fires.
"I kind of haven't stopped," she said. "I haven't processed any of it. I just keep moving."
Kristen Reichenbach woke up Friday morning at a Simi Valley evacuation center wearing a sweatshirt, flannel pajama pants and fur-lined boots. Her mind raced to process the fires and the shooting.
She had planned to go to the Borderline on Thursday and play pool, but the shooting a night earlier meant that instead she attended a vigil for the victims. They included Jake Dunham, 21-year-old son of one of Reichenbach's co-workers.
After the vigil, Reichenbach woke up at 3 a.m. in her Westlake Village condominium, It smelled like barbecue because of the fire. She fled with her 11-year-old daughter, driving for two hours in a search for a hotel room. They ended up at a Red Cross site.
"I just want all the bad to end so that we can start moving forward," she said Friday before a trip to buy water and snacks just in case another tragedy strikes, maybe an earthquake.
"It feels like we're being slammed with a lot of things," she said.
The 12 Borderline victims included two members of a young adult group at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village.
"We were hit pretty hard," said Shawn Thornton, senior pastor at Calvary, describing how the staff gathered and cried together for an hour, grieving more in a vigil and a young adult service that brought in 500 people.
As Thornton explained the grief and exhaustion that made his body weak and his legs shake, he noted he was driving away from his home in Simi Valley's Wood Ranch. Flames from the Woolsey Fire exploding in a ball triggered his evacuation.
"I've slept about three hours in two days," he said, explaining his plan to take a shower, eat a meal and then start checking on other church employees and congregants.
That's how you deal with the one-two sucker punch, Thornton said. You ask other people how they're doing. You find ways to help.
"Don't get trapped in isolation," he said. "Talk to a friend, talk to a neighbor, scream to the sky, whatever you need to do. ... This feeling is very real but it won't always be here."
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