‘It could have been any of us out there on that dance floor’

The Signal - - Front page - By Michele Lutes Sig­nal Staff Writer Michele LUTES SIG­NAL STAFF WRITER

Ed­i­tor’s note: The shoot­ing at Border­line Bar and Grill in Thou­sand Oaks hit es­pe­cially close to home for Sig­nal Staff Writer Michele Lutes, so we in­vited her to sub­mit this first-per­son per­spec­tive.

Our place. Our peo­ple. It’s hard to wrap your mind around a tragedy that hits so close to home.

I have been go­ing to Border­line Bar and Grill for three years since I was 18. It was the place where I counted down the days un­til I was old enough to get in and then counted down the days again un­til I could get the 21-and-over wrist­band. A place that re­united me with my best friends and cre­ated ev­er­last­ing

mem­o­ries for us.

One best friend met her hus­band there and an­other met her boyfriend there. We cel­e­brated our birth­days and en­gage­ments there and we cre­ated bonds that would last a life­time with peo­ple from all over Los An­ge­les and Ven­tura County.

It’s about a 45-minute drive from Santa Clarita to Thou­sand Oaks, and al­most ev­ery week dozens of Santa Clarita Val­ley res­i­dents make the drive to dance with their sec­ond fam­ily at the place many con­sider their sec­ond home.

“Ev­ery­one says it’s like a fam­ily there, but lit­er­ally my Snapchat group is named Border­line fam­ily,” said Will Dav­i­son, an SCV res­i­dent, my friend and Border­line reg­u­lar.

With coun­try mu­sic blast­ing and prac­tic­ing line dances in our heads, I’d park the car at Border­line and we’d boot-scoot our way up to the door. We’d step up to the cashier to pay and get X’s on our hands or get our wrist­band.

The DJ would call out line dances as we’d rush to the floor to grab a spot to dance, or even make fools of our­selves as we’d try to fol­low a dance we don’t know. Ei­ther way, the smiles on our faces and the mem­o­ries we are mak­ing are ones that will last for­ever.

Border­line is a place that has at­tracted the coun­try com­mu­nity for years. Since 1993 the bar has been open to ages 18 and up. Whether it’s col­lege night, coun­try night or a con­cert and two-step lessons, the place would be packed.

It’s easy to make friends with who­ever hap­pens to be next to you whether you’re sit­ting on a bar stool or you never leave the dance floor, and you’d even run into peo­ple from your own neigh­bor­hood in the bath­room.

We know the names and faces of ev­ery sin­gle em­ployee, from the bounc­ers to the line dance teach­ers.

“I’ve been go­ing there for years and years. It’s a very safe place,” Dav­i­son said. “Every­body there is wel­com­ing and invit­ing. This is not the place you think this would hap­pen.”

Wed­nes­day night’s hor­rific events hit close to home. Hun­dreds of peo­ple stood in­side a place that was made for mem­o­ries — and they feared for their lives.

“At that mo­ment I just kept think­ing to my­self, ‘Am I gonna be alive?’ Noth­ing else was go­ing through my head,” said Kate­lyn Dolder, SCV res­i­dent and my friend of six years.

She had not missed a col­lege night at Border­line in more than four months.

A gun­man barged into Border­line and opened fire. By the time his ram­page was done, he had killed at least 12 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a Ven­tura County sher­iff’s sergeant who was the first to re­spond to the scene.

“I just feel shat­tered,” Dav­i­son said. He did not at­tend Wed­nes­day’s event, but his friends were among the in­jured and de­ceased. He knew at least six of those killed.

It could have been any of us out there on that dance floor.

Wed­nes­day night when I re­ceived the no­ti­fi­ca­tion on my phone, I awoke, star­tled and prayed it wasn’t real.

I had seen friends post on Snapchat and In­sta­gram that they were at Border­line an hour prior.

All I could do was con­tact them and wait. For at least two hours, I heard noth­ing. No sign from the ones we call fam­ily.

Friends and fam­ily from across the na­tion con­tacted me ask­ing me if I was OK, if I was there and what was go­ing on.

I con­tacted Kate­lyn and waited over two hours to hear if she was safe. She was OK, but she had been run­ning for her life, she said.

She made it out alive with a hurt an­kle and was able to go home and hug her fam­ily again.

“When I first got home, it was still pitch dark,” she said. She sat down on the couch and tried to watch a Dis­ney movie.

“I kept look­ing at the win­dow. I was just para­noid. I don’t know what’s gonna come through a win­dow now, or through a door. I’m just afraid to open it and see what’s on the other side,” she said.

I felt hope­less, an­gry, hurt, con­fused and anx­ious as I watched the news un­fold in front of my eyes.

A place we call home shat­tered into pieces. Barstools thrown out win­dows, blood dried on the front steps and the de­ceased in­side.

“It’s just painful. It was where some of the best mem­o­ries have hap­pened lately, but now it’s turned into the worst mem­ory,” Kate­lyn said.

It’s gonna be a long road for all of us. We have to stick to­gether and be Coun­try Strong.

Cour­tesy photo

Sig­nal staff writer Michele Lutes, far right, has been go­ing to Border­line Bar and Grill for a cou­ple of years. She holds var­i­ous mem­o­ries from the es­tab­lish­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.