jacob moscovitch

Stuck where it happened

Two years after the Borderline shooting, Lara Edwards was on the path to recovery. Now, as she returns from college amidst a pandemic, Lara must remain home — stuck in the city where the shooting happened. 

As Lara Edwards, 21, drove home on the 101 freeway, she passed the abandoned bar — its windows now boarded. Two years before she had jumped out that then-shattered window, running for her life. She was afraid to look back at the wreckage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Edwards to return home from university, just miles from the bar.

In November 2018, a gunman entered Borderline Bar & Grill. The dance floor was packed with college students trying to let off some steam, drink a little beer and line dance to the country music blaring in the background. It was the type of night that would be familiar to any student — including Edwards, who was completing her second year of university at Moorpark College.

But also familiar to her and the other young people at the Thousand Oaks, Calif. bar, are the regular lockdowns and active shooter drills that are a part of student life. This time, the shooting wasn’t on campus. This time it wasn’t a drill.

12 people were killed that night. Edwards can still hear the gunshots.

After the shooting, she began to develop symptoms of PTSD. She transferred to the University of California - Davis to study psychology. She was wrapped in her new life away from the sharp memories of that night — new college, new friends and a new mindset. Edwards was on the path to recovery. 

“It was nice to get away from Thousand Oaks,” she said. “Everything just seemed to be focused on the shooting.”

But, that all changed when COVID-19 forced her new university to send her home.

“All the other times that I’ve been home, I’ve been here for weekends or holidays,” she said. “I’m so busy catching up with people [that] I don’t really have time to think about what happened. Now, all I really have to do is sit at home and just think about it.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Edwards cannot distract herself with friends and outings.

“When the shooting happened, it was all everyone could talk about,” she said. “It was the one topic of conversation that came up wherever you went. The same thing is happening now. You can’t have a conversation with anyone without it being somewhat related to Corona.”

Edwards has sought treatment for the PTSD and anxiety caused by the shooting. “I started seeing a therapist a month after that night,” she said. “I was doing much better before Corona.”

Due to her physical and social isolation, just miles from the bar, Edwards’ PTSD and anxiety are creeping back in.

“Just kind of feels like there’s an underlying darkness,” she said.

Now, Edwards can barely leave her home. As she completes her final year of college remotely and online, she continues to see her therapist each week.

“There’s still a lot of stuff I’m unpacking and working through,” she said. “Both the shooting and Covid have definitely changed my life, but they cannot hold onto me.”

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