Reed Barthelemy and his friend Janeen Diaz de Tuesta loved Borderline Bar and Grill. The country music spot located in Thousand Oaks was a center point for their close-knit community. Borderline hosted a weekly “college night” on Wednesdays, and they were regulars.
“It was the greatest place to be,” de Tuesta said, “like the adult Disneyland.”
But at 11:20 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2018, the casual, country music-fueled evening devolved into a dark mayhem. The once-vibrant bar became another statistic for American mass violence when 28-year-old Ian David Long began firing a semi-automatic rifle. Twelve people were killed.
One year later, they were back at their favorite bar wearing matching black “Borderline Strong” t-shirts.
The last 12 months haven’t been easy for Barthelemy but he says it has brought people together — particularly the survivors.
“After the shooting, I felt more comfortable being around people who went through this situation with me,” he said.
De Tuesta wasn’t there that night, but she lost two of her closest friends in the shooting. One of them had actually survived the mass shooting at the Las Vegas country music festival known as Route 91 the year before.
She says her friend had adopted a motto after coming so close to death.
“Live for those who can’t,” de Tuesta said, “We have adopted that.”
Santos Tecum couldn’t run that night. He was on crutches after getting surgery on his leg. Instead, he hid in plain sight.
“I pretended that I was dead,” Tecum said. “I did what I could to survive.”
The past year has been one of deep contemplation for Tecum, who was visiting Borderline Thursday for the first time since the shooting.
“I feel like God has given me a second chance at life,” he said.
He added that surviving the attack brought challenges too. “I feel guilty because I couldn’t do anything when I was hiding on the ground,” Tecum said. “It’s hard to be here again, my heart is trembling.”
Overcoming fear has been central to Barthelemy and de Tuesta’s healing process.
“I’m doing things that are scary,” said de Tuesta. “You have to do it and embrace the fear.”
“The people who passed wouldn’t want us to just stop, they would want us to honor them by living our lives,” said Barthelemy.
Borderline has been shuttered since the shooting as owners Brian Hynes and Troy Hale decide how to move forward with the space. For now, it’s a colorful tapestry of pictures, painted rocks, homemade crosses and candles.
Though Barthelemy and de Tuesta have visited the Borderline many times over the past year to pay their respects, they decided to create a more permanent tribute.
“We all got tattoos,” said de Tuesta, turning around to reveal a detailed depiction of cowboy boots on her back in remembrance of her friend Kristina Morisette, who used to wear them to the country-themed bar.
Barthelemy pulled up his shirtsleeve, revealing the circular Borderline Grill logo, and Roman numerals depicting a Bible verse and the date that will be forever etched in his mind: XI-VII-MMXVIII 11-7-18.