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Two Borderline Survivors Talk Trauma, Guilt, And Recovery A Year After The Tragic Shooting

Gabby Flores, a 20-year-old student at California Lutheran University, has spent the last year living with the aftermath of a tragedy no one should have to experience.

Flores was dancing at Borderline Bar and Grill one year ago when an an armed gunman opened fire at the restaurant in Thousand Oaks. Twelve people died that night, as well as the gunman.

As Flores was fleeing the bar, she remembers helping some students make their way out, though she couldn’t tell who some of them were. Months later, after a group counseling session, Flores learned about the fate of one of the students she had helped.

“I had survivor’s guilt really bad one day, and my coach, she called me," Flores says.  "She goes ‘Hey, I need to pass this message along to you from a parent. I work at the school, and a mom came running up to me and gave me this huge hug. That mom said to pass this hug along to you, because he realized that you were the person who helped him out of there.’ I had helped her son after Borderline that day.”

Flores still suffers from PTSD and survivor’s guilt, a common outcome for people who have undergone trauma like a mass shooting event. Despite her struggles, she says many  people in the community have been helpful to her in her recovery.

“That sort of like hit me like, wow, I did help, I did do something. It definitely helps. It definitely helps,” Flores says.

For Tim Dominguez, although time has brought recovery, it’s also brought questions. Dominguez was at Borderline playing pool with his stepson when the shooting happened.

In fact, Dominguez had casually played pool with the shooter himself just a few weeks before.
 
“A lot of things fly through my head about that night, and why it happened. I don’t know if being nice to him, and having that little bit of man talk, playing pool, saved my life? Or, did he have a target? I’m not sure. I’d like these questions answered though.”

Dominguez says that a year later, he still asks himself about what happened that night.
 
“A lot of it was, why didn’t I stay? What could I have done to help more, or save one of those girls' or guys' lives?" Dominguez says. "I’m not sure. I’ll probably struggle with that always.”

Dominguez went to therapy in the time after the shooting to help him process what he saw. Around August 2019, he says he remembered part of the evening that he had suppressed from his memory, about a pair of people trying to keep the gunman in place.

“As I was going out the front door I was looking toward the cashier’s area and there were two people holding the door, so he wouldn't get out," Dominguez says. "They saved more lives than anybody.”

On the anniversary, Dominguez says he wanted to thank those people, and observe their memory, along with the memory of all the people who lost their lives in the tragic attack.

"I think it’s important to remember them in an honorable way, and I just want to let people know that there were these people that were heroes," Dominguez says.

"They were special people - whoever they were - and that’s what I would tell them. I would say you’re special, and I love you, and I’m sorry you’re not here. That’s what I would tell them."

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