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My love letter to Thousand Oaks

One of the reasons my parents moved us to Thousand Oaks when I was in the fourth grade was because it was su...

Posted: Nov 11, 2018 12:47 PM
Updated: Nov 11, 2018 12:47 PM

One of the reasons my parents moved us to Thousand Oaks when I was in the fourth grade was because it was such a safe place to live, and that has continued to be true.

Mayor Andy Fox has called Thousand Oaks the safest city in America in interviews since the shooting. If there were a picture in the dictionary of "American suburban life," it would be of Thousand Oaks, with its rolling hills and oak trees, its luxury car dealerships and shopping malls. I found all that safety stifling when I was growing up, so after college, I didn't return like some of my childhood friends did. I said "I'll never live in the suburbs again," and that has proven mostly true -- until my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in October 2016.

I tried to persuade her to move up to Lake Tahoe with me, but she wasn't having it. She had lived in Thousand Oaks for nearly 40 years, and she wanted to die there. In the months I lived there with her, I walked with my dog through the manicured neighborhoods, passing the gated communities in Sunset Hills, returning to her community where all the stucco houses look exactly the same. In the fall, a murder of crows caw from the sycamores and in the spring, bunnies hop across the greenbelts.

I drove the familiar roads, past my elementary, middle and high schools on my way to pick up my mother's medications and shop for her groceries. I strolled through The Oaks Mall, lit with holiday lights and decorations, looking for gifts. When my mother felt well enough, we would go to the library and local park together, watching the ducks and the turtles, looking for the beauty in the world. And we found it.

Last year when the bank called to tell me the sale of my childhood home was complete, the escrow officer said, "Congratulations!" I started to cry. And like all people who surprise others with their unexpected tears, I apologized, saying, "It's just really hard."

And although I shouldn't have done it, a few months ago when I was back in town for my high school reunion, I drove by our house, the house I didn't know I loved until it was gone. It felt like the end of an era, but my childhood and teenage years -- roller-skating and track meets, hiking in Wildwood and ice blocking on the Sunset Hills golf course -- they are still there in the Thousand Oaks that lives in the dwelling place of my memory.

This is all to say that the safety of Thousand Oaks may have felt stifling to me when I was a young person, looking for adventure beyond my parents' house; now, after the killings of 12 people have made the community's name a household word, I see that I relied on it -- even if I wasn't going to live there, something about knowing it was there was important to me. My first kiss was in the parking lot of The Oaks Mall. The friendships I made at Thousand Oaks High School have lasted into my adulthood. Both of my parents died there.

The mayor of Thousand Oaks said Friday that if this can happen there -- meaning the Borderline Bar mass shooting, where those 12 people died -- then it can happen anywhere. I always already knew that, or at least I thought I did when it happened in other places, places that were close to home, but not home exactly.

If my mother were still alive, she would be watching the news on its horrible loop, getting up only during commercials. She'd be checking in with her friends from the local hardware store where she worked, because some of her young colleagues frequented Borderline. I would tell her to turn off the news, and she would shush me, saying, as she often did when she heard about people who died suddenly: "And they didn't even have a death sentence." What she meant was that she had been given three months to live after being diagnosed with cancer, and she herself had accepted this death sentence. During every month she lived after that, and she was still there, sitting on the couch, alive, she would ask when she heard of sudden death, "It's incredible, isn't it? No one even told them that they were going to die."

But here in America, we're all living with a death sentence, one we also have come to accept. Death awaits us at movies and nightclubs, at our elementary schools and colleges, in our synagogues, our mosques and our churches. The very thing that some of us argue keeps us free and safe -- our right to own guns -- has become our terminal diagnosis, and we can't escape it, not even in the safest city in America.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 786168

Reported Deaths: 15016
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2607976353
Riverside566811153
San Bernardino52471908
Orange520631128
San Diego44577760
Kern31379354
Fresno27668355
Sacramento21297375
Alameda20558374
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Stanislaus16319335
Contra Costa15837199
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Imperial11558314
San Francisco1074599
San Mateo9522143
Monterey946767
Santa Barbara8862110
Merced8750134
Kings728377
Sonoma7060114
Marin6557112
Solano608555
Madera429658
Placer346641
San Luis Obispo336927
Butte274835
Yolo274754
Santa Cruz22188
Sutter164210
Napa161413
San Benito130111
Yuba11187
El Dorado10684
Mendocino84918
Lassen7310
Shasta68714
Glenn5503
Colusa5096
Nevada5066
Tehama4984
Humboldt4826
Lake46510
Calaveras31114
Amador28616
Tuolumne2214
Inyo18714
Mono1652
Siskiyou1610
Del Norte1361
Mariposa752
Plumas490
Modoc240
Trinity150
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
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Oroville
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Paradise
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Chester
Scattered Clouds
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Willows
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Air quality has worsened for most of northern California as a lot of smoke from our area fires as settled over the valleys and foothills. We can expect more hazy, smoky sunshine on Tuesday with light to moderate breezes as autumn begins.
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