- Ringo Chiu/Reuters
- Telemachus Orfanos, one of the 12 victims of Wednesday night’s mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, had survived the Las Vegas shooting just a year earlier.
- Orfanos was one of potentially dozens of Route 91 Harvest Festival survivors who were again in the wrong place at the wrong time by no fault of their own.
- After the atrocity in Vegas, survivors came together as a support community that eventually became a family.
- Business Insider spoke to one of the organizers of the Route 91 family about how she and her community are coping with the twin tragedies.
Telemachus Orfanos, one of the 12 victims of Wednesday night’s mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, had survived the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017.
Orfanos, along with hundreds of others, witnessed and survived one of the most brutal, senseless acts of violence in US history as a gunman, with no identified motive, opened fire out of the window of his hotel room, killing 58 and wounding nearly 500.
But a month after the horror of the shooting that targeted concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas strip last year, survivors shook off the terror for a holiday buffet dinner.
“Last year I put together a Thanksgiving dinner/potluck just out of wanting to come together with everyone,” Stacie Armentrout, a Route 91 survivor who has become a key organizer for the community, told Business Insider. “I wanted us to spend the holiday together and be together.”
Since then, the group of strangers once united only by a massacre, have “become a family,” said Armentrout.
But on Wednesday night, the newly forged family once again suffered a tragedy.
Read more: What happened at the Thousand Oaks shooting
Nicholas Champion, a Las Vegas survivor who was at the Borderline, told ABC News that of the 100 or more people at the bar when the shots rang out, 50 or 60 had been with him at Route 91.
“It’s unbelievable today to know that some of our family has gone through this twice again,” said Armentrout.
Chandler Gunn, another member of the survivor community, told the Los Angeles Times: “There’s people that live a whole lifetime without seeing this, and then there’s people that have seen it twice.”
For Armentrout and the other survivors, Thursday morning brought back the horrors of Las Vegas.
Armentrout said she spent her day talking to other Route 91 survivors who knew people at the Borderline trying to track down four missing people. Of those four, Armentrout said three had been killed.
With the death of Orfanos, at least one Route 91 survivor’s murder at the Borderline has been confirmed. Orfanos joins a deputy sheriff, a former marine, a law student, a local baseball umpire, and an actress among those killed.
Armentrout and her family suffered panic attacks and other fallout from the trauma, but rather than lose a single day the grief and misery that’s now visited her family twice, she went to work.
“You’re going through the motions, but you’re not functioning. You’re present, but you’re not functioning,” said Armentrout of her day at work on Thursday, spent intermittently offering support to fellow survivors and hunting down details of those involved in the shooting.
How to survive tragedy
- Ethan Miller/Getty Images
For Armentrout, her biggest takeaway from surviving twin tragedies is to meet grief with strength and persevere with a laser focus on being there for the people she loves.
“The news media does, sadly, pay a lot of attention to the idiot who does these things,” said Armentrout. She added that when the Las Vegas shooter’s name pops up in an article, she can’t even bring herself to read it.
While media scoured details of the shooter’s life for clues as to a motivation, and conspiracy theorists hurled wild accusations at all sides, Armentrout says she and the other survivors ignore it for their own good.
“We say ‘F’ that guy or forget that guy,” she said of the Las Vegas shooter. “You have to learn to kind of tune it out and turn it off. If you listen to it all, you’re going to drive your own self crazy.”
After the Thousand Oaks tragedy, Armentrout had a message on how the Route 91 victims learned to survive.
“I think we’ve learned that more than ever before that you have to live in the moment,” she said. “My children are 13 and 16, and I still tuck them into bed every night because tomorrow is not promised.”
“During those little moments in the day in my time with them, there’s nothing else. It’s just us in the moment living. Make sure you tell your loved ones you love them in that moment.”