THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Southern California’s Borderline Bar and Grill had become a safe haven for dozens of survivors of last year’s massacre at a Las Vegas country music festival, a place where they gathered for line dancing and drinks.
On Wednesday night, some of those survivors found themselves in a terrifyingly familiar scene, when bullets began flying once again.
Brendan Kelly, 22-year-old Marine, was one of them.
“I already didn’t wish it on anybody to begin with for the first time,” Kelly said Thursday outside his Thousand Oaks home. “The second time around doesn’t get any easier.”
Kelly, a Marine, said he heard “pop, pop” and instantly knew it was gunfire.
“The chills go up your spine. You don’t think it’s real — again,” he said.
Kelly said he threw two of his friends to the floor and covered them with his body. Then he got a look at the shooter and the terror unfolding and decided they needed to escape.
Kelly said he dragged one woman out a back emergency exit and then, using his belt, T-shirt and Marine training, applied a tourniquet to his friend’s bleeding arm.
After the shooting was over, Kelly said he and another Marine friend of his helped victims alongside first responders. Two of his friends were among those killed.
Chandler Gunn, 23, told The Los Angeles Times that a friend who survived the Vegas shooting works at the bar. When Gunn learned about the shooting, he rushed to Borderline.
Gunn said his friend, whose name he didn’t provide, escaped safely out the back.
“There’s people that live a whole lifetime without seeing this, and then there’s people that have seen it twice,” he said.
In social media posts, Molly Mauer said she was at Borderline and also survived Vegas.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this again. I’m alive and home safe,” she said on Facebook.
In Las Vegas and Thousand Oaks, country music fans were the victims. Borderline features country music, and Wednesday was “college night” and many young people crowded into the bar. The Last Vegas shooter targeted a crowd of country music fans gathered for the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
Kelly has a large tattoo on his left arm memorializing the Las Vegas shooting, which left killed 58 dead. On his other arm Thursday, he still had his wristband from the bar.
When the Las Vegas gunman opened fire from a 32nd-floor hotel room, Kelly said he threw a friend to the ground before helping get her out of the area and into a room. Armed with a knife in case an attacker came in, he hunkered down and waited with 40 other people for four hours.
He said living through Vegas changed his life. He doesn’t know how a second mass shooting will affect him down the road.
“Everywhere I go, everything I do is affected,” he said. “I don’t sit in a room with my back to the door. You’re always picking up on social cues. You’re always overanalyzing people trying to figure out if something were to go down, ‘What would I do?’”
Kelly said the Borderline had become a safe haven for dozens of Vegas survivors.
“It is our home,” he said.
A few weeks after the Vegas shooting, Borderline held a benefit concert for five people from the area who were killed, and now-eerie social media posts show a number of survivors holding up a “Route 91” sign inside the bar at a six-month anniversary event.
Kelly said he’ll be looking to God for comfort in the coming weeks and months.
“I know that, being a religious person, that God is never going to give me anything more than I can handle,” he said. “I’m here for a reason.”