I had just spent another day arm-wrestling with our newfound COVID-19 existence.  I juggled yet another day of demands from work, adult children, siblings, and relatives and was finally lying down and taking care of myself. I had just put in my nightly eyedrops and began to drift off to sleep when suddenly, I heard my 20 s something-year-old son, Max, yelling at his X-box while on-line with his friends. My first reaction was, “I am going to murder that kid,” and before the thought could become fully formed in my mind, I remembered back to just a couple of years ago when I was putting eye drops in my eyes at about the same time in the evening when our answering machine blared the sound of our son’s voice who was in the middle of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California on November 7, 2018. The same son who I now was going to murder. 

In a split second, my mind processed a thousand thoughts; from all the families who are suffering, people who don’t have enough food to eat, people whose loved ones are sick and dying alone, the homeless. The list can go on and on because, in these times, the worlds’ problems seem so numerous and nearby. When I was younger, famine, disease, and poverty seemed oceans away. But now they are at my doorstep. My mind was racing, I was having a flashback. I was triggered. I tried to focus, I tried to rationalize, I tried to convince myself that life could go back to normal, even now. As much as I tried, I could not get a grip.

I thought back to the chaos on the evening of November 7, 2018. It all started at 11:16 pm when the phone rang. My first instinct was to ignore it, thinking it was another ridiculous sales call bothering me. But this call was different; pandemonium could be heard in the background. As my heart raced, I began to focus on the caller’s voice. “Mom, dad, please pick up, there’s been a shooting at Borderline!  Mom, dad, pick up the phone! There’s been a shooting! Mom, dad, pick up the phone, there’s been a f***ing shooting!” Terror filled me as I fumbled in the dark. “Mom, dad, wake up.” This was the voice of my 21-year old son. Suddenly awake with panic, “Max, what’s happened? Where are you?” I began to shudder as I shook the sleep away. “Get dad,” he shrieked. I pushed my husband awake. “David, it’s Max. There’s been a shooting?”

As I lay there trying to focus on the now, I thought about the COVID-19 pandemic, the death, and uncertainty it has caused. It had me in the same chokehold that the shooting had on me. It made me anxious, mad, fearful and feeling helpless, just like the night of the Borderline mass shooting.  I remembered the sound of bullets, cries, and sirens. “What was happening?” Am I reliving the past?  The television was on, the images on the screen were different than the night of the shooting but my mind was seeing the scene of November 7, 2018, all over again.  My body became clammy with sweat from the heat that began in my chest and engulfed my being. My thoughts were racing, and my veins pulsed like an unstoppable fire alarm. As I stared at the TV, with the rising death toll from COVID-19, I couldn’t help but think of my diving into gun violence after my son was part of a mass shooting.

Repeated trauma leaves pathways in our memory and I was unprepared for the lasting effects of the Borderline shooting.  I can only share the memories that haunt me to this day.

I remember my husband dropped the phone and was dressed and out the door. He hopped in the car, racing to our son. I waited for what seemed like hours, but the trip to the scene of the crime was only a few off ramps away. I began to shake uncontrollably when my cell phone rang, only to hear the hysteria in my friend whose son was with mine for the evening. In unison, with bated breath, we stared at the television separated by a few blocks, but united in our hearts and heads.  What in the world was going on?  I just wanted to see my son, my baby boy. Coping was the last thing on my mind; I just wanted to shower him in my unconditional love, hug him and never let go… Never.

He and his friends had been there many Wednesday nights before; country music, young girls and a few beers, just what it was supposed to be, all in a safe and friendly place. I continued to watch the TV, stunned; the surreal scene of squad cars, fire trucks, and ambulances parked in all directions; kids scurrying for cover under squad cars, escorts of wounded into emergency vehicles, all the while, cops with shotguns patrolling the streets as bullets could still be heard. My mind raced. Time couldn’t be measured as the seconds ticked by like hours. The phone rang again. It was my husband. He found our son whose hand was bloody from breaking through a window and a tweaked knee, all suffered while saving others. Our son was okay, rattled, shaken, hurt; but okay. He drove Max to a hospital further away due to the myriad of people and chaos at the ER near our home. Stitches only…but, not really.  It was more than stitches. Much more.

My boy along with hundreds of young kids was part of a mass shooting. Twelve innocent people tragically lost their lives. Have I even had a chance to process the gravity of the horrors my son has faced?  His youth has been stripped away. Will his freedom to enjoy a night out with his friends be lost to fear? Will he be captive to his memories? For me, I am still processing the emotional and psychological trauma of trying to deal with the fact that I could have lost my son; and then it dawns on me, oh, my g/d, what must it be like for those mothers who lost their children?”

It is 11:16 PM once again. I am thinking about my son and how close he came to being a statistic, just like the ones scrolling across our television screen, counting the dead.  Now, I feel so safe and secure with him downstairs in his room on his X-box. I will always be grateful that my son was spared, but the sadness for the families that lost their child is unbearable. How can I ever forget standing at the memorial, crying at the site of 11 crosses and one Star of David with flowers and cards lying in front of them?  Sadly, this is a reality that will be glued to my memory forever. I am trying to make sense of this senseless act, but I can’t, no one can, except the shooter, and he is now dead, so the answers I crave will never be.

It was a mass shooting. I start to google… there were 340 mass shootings in 2018; my son was the survivor of the 307th mass shooting in 311 days.  377 dead and 1,346 injured. There were 417 mass shootings in 2019. It is still unimaginable that in 2019, there were more mass shootings than there were days in the year.  I have had to learn that a mass shooting is only considered one if there are at least four total victims.   

I can barely tolerate these statistics, but I have to. We all do. 

My son is now part of this statistic.  And, the Borderline shooting, well, it was at my doorstep, only miles away from my warm, safe home. I continue to google, and I feel the fear-filled sweat begin to fall from my brows.  Tears fall from eyes down my cheeks as I read these statistics.

According to a recent Washington Post analysis of data from the Gunfight Violence Archive, a non-profit research organization, “2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades and 2021 has already been a terrible year for gun violence. During the first five months of 2021, gunfire killed more than 8,100 people in the United States, about 54 lives lost per day, 14 more deaths per day than the average toll during the same period of the previous six years.  Last weekend alone, more than 120 people died in shootings, with three especially dangerous incidents in Austin, Chicago and Savannah.”

What can we do; how do we live like this? How many lives must be destroyed before the insanity is reined in? I know there are no easy answers, I know the pain I feel for myself and others is a drop in the bucket compared to the suffering in the world; with its bombings, wars, famine, and the deadly COVID-19.

Sadly, the sober reality of senseless violence and evil sets in. I know I can’t fix everything.  I know in the end, the only solace I can find is that I raised an incredible boy growing into an amazing man. As a parent, I now know, no matter how much we want to protect our kids, the world, good and bad, will one day confront them, and we can’t control it. We want them to soar on the wings we gave them, but at the same time, clip the wings to keep them near and safe. Like so many things in life, we can’t have it both ways.

My son is alive; my heart is cracked forever, my world is changed; and all the while, I know I am one of the lucky ones.   

But, what now?  Do I just sit and pray that this will never happen again? Statistics prove that shootings are becoming more and more common. Just last week, I was told to keep a tourniquet in my car now, “just in case.”  So, no, I say to myself.  I cannot sit idly by and wait for the next mass shooting to happen.  My son’s life and the lives of many others depend on someone doing something. This shooting was my wake-up call. I had to do more. I had to have a voice in all the mayhem in my world.  What could I do? I am just one woman, just a mom, just a simple person searching for answers.  But I have a voice and it is time to use it.  So, with all the heartbreak in my gut and my head that never ceases to stop spinning, searching for a glimmer of hope amid darkness, I realize I can do something.  I am a member of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.  My voice is just one of the 300,000 members who want gun violence to end.  No, I am not helpless. 

I decided to head to Sacramento and on the wings of a women’s organization that cares about the sanctity of human life, I, along with 12 other women who are Hadassah members with a passion for advocacy, hit the ground running! 

Hadassah, has long been a strong advocate and supporter for strict gun control initiatives and believes that current laws do not go far enough, nor are enforced rigorously enough to help prevent gun control violence.

We met with seven legislators from the California State Legislature.  It was time to dig into Gun Violence and Hate Crimes. Together, we can make a difference.  AB 165, a bill that requires our Peace Officers training on Gun Violence Restraining Orders was passed in September, 2019 as well as AB 166, which now allows Medi-Cal coverage to provide violence preventive services to beneficiaries who have received medical treatment for a violent injury or are at risk of violent re-injury or retaliation.  It may not be the cure-all, but it is a beginning.  This is just the beginning, I thought when I heard of the victorious passage of these bills. 

Life brings us to places we never thought we would be in.  Never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be an advocate, that I had a voice that carried far. But I do. Hadassah taught me that. And my work is not done. Just before COVID-19 became the center of our universe, I brought 14 women to Sacramento once again to meet with our legislators in hopes of passing more legislation to end or at least prevent gun violence. I have so many ideas my head is spinning. I am but one voice and I know that.  This fight to end gun violence is a long one and we have only just begun. This is not just about me, my son, the survivors or the others that lost their lives at the Borderline Shooting. This is about all of the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who are grieving. It is about the lives that were shattered, and the lives that were lost.  Yes, indeed, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a voice.  I will be heard.


  • Stacey Dorenfeld of Los Angeles is living a life that she loves as a result of the people and experiences that she has been blessed with. A Life Member of Hadassah, Stacey was selected to represent Hadassah Southern California by attending the Jewish Public Affairs Committee (JPAC) Conference in Sacramento in 2015. There she met with various state Representatives and lobbied for human rights issues, which Hadassah has taken a stand on. Stacey has returned to Sacramento on behalf of Hadassah numerous times since that first experience and has also represented Hadassah several times on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., meeting with both federal and state legislators. In addition, Stacey is a sought-after trainer and speaker, and often leads workshops on the ins-and-outs of domestic advocacy. In recognition of her leadership she was elected as the Advocacy Chair serving on the 2019 Board of Hadassah Southern California, representing issues of importance to 20,000 Hadassah members throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.