'A surreal shock': Las Vegas shooting survivors live through California massacre
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - When the first shots were fired at Borderline Bar & Grill, David Anderson immediately knew he was in the middle of a mass shooting. He had lived through one last year.
Anderson survived the attack at a country music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017 that left 58 people dead. On Wednesday, he again survived a gunman indiscriminately firing at people enjoying country music, this time at college night at a well-loved bar. Twelve people were killed.
Numerous Borderline regulars attended, and survived, the Las Vegas shooting.
"Vegas Strong" shirts were often spotted at the bar. Patrons gathered here for healing and community. The were a "family," as Anderson described it.
Now, 13 months later, many again fled the gunshots and chaos of a mass shooting, with memories of the first terrifying experience guiding their actions in another scene of carnage.
"I was at the Las Vegas Route 91 mass shooting, as well as probably 50 or 60 others who were in there at the same time as me," Nicholas Champion said in a television interview. "We're all a big family, and unfortunately this family got hit twice."
Molly Maurer shared her feelings on Facebook about being a two-time survivor:
"I can't believe I'm saying this again. I'm alive and home safe," she wrote.
In Las Vegas, Anderson stood near the stage, on the same side of the field as the Mandalay Bay hotel, where a gunman fired shots out of the windows of his suite. Anderson saw a man next to him get shot and dove on top of his then-girlfriend to shield her. When the gunman stopped shooting, Anderson and his group of friends ran out an exit and two miles to their hotel.
On Wednesday, he stood near the bar facing the door - something he now does all the time in public, a learned behavior from the Las Vegas shooting.
He saw the gunman walk in, take a military-like stance and fire. He ducked behind the bar and, when the gunman briefly stopped shooting, ran outside with his friend.
"It was just a surreal shock, the shock factor," he said.
When Megan Greene came home after surviving Route 91, she could not stand being in the dark. She scratched her legs raw from the anxiety.
Days later, she started participating in a weekly ritual: college night at Borderline. She was grateful to be around so many who were close to her, and many were fellow survivors. But she was also anxious; she ran into a corner, curled up in a ball and cried during a song where people clapped.
She has since moved from California, but Greene said in a text message Thursday that the shooting at the bar she frequented was "too surreal."
Carl Edgar told the Los Angeles Times that he is a regular at the bar and knew about 20 people inside on Wednesday.
"A lot of my friends survived Route 91," Edgar said. "If they survived that, they will survive this."
Anderson said the Las Vegas shooting made him much more aware of his surroundings and people who might seem suspicious.
"It did change me a little bit," he said.
It also made him more resolute in his belief that an armed, well-trained shooter could make a difference in situations like this. Anderson grew up with guns and is an avid hunter. He believes that guns, if used responsibly, could help.
"If the right people with the right training were there, it could make a difference," he said.
Others felt differently. Susan Orfanos said in a television interview that her son, Telemachus, was killed at Borderline after surviving Las Vegas.
"My son was in Las Vegas with a lot of his friends, and he came home. He didn't come home last night," she said. "I don't want prayers; I don't want thoughts; I want gun control, and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns."
Telemachus Orfanos, 27, lived with his parents in Thousand Oaks and worked at a local Infiniti dealership. He was a veteran of the Navy.
"It's a cruel thing to survive the worst mass shooting in the country in modern times, and then to be killed in another just a little more than a year later," his father, Marc, said in an interview with The Post. "It defies logic."
His son suffered PTSD from the shooting and had been in therapy, Marc Orfanos said.
"He felt fortunate, but also horrified at what he had seen," he said.
In Las Vegas, Telemachus Orfanos not only survived the massacre - but helped paramedics pull those who'd been injured by gunfire from danger.
"Tel easily saved hundreds of lives," said Brendan Hoolihan, 21, who met Orfanos for the first time amid the mayhem at the Route 91 concert. The two young men were strangers that night who quickly became teammates, rescuing people from the field beneath Mandalay Bay and later assisting victims inside the Tropicana resort.
By the end of the night, they were covered in blood.
For the last year, Hoolihan and Orfanos developed a close friendship, talking on the phone once a month and attending other country concerts together. They'd merged friend groups and "picked each other up nonstop."
On Thursday, Hoolihan drove several hours from his home in Santa Ana to attend a vigil at Thousand Oaks City Hall for the Borderline victims. Hoolihan wore a Route 91 T-shirt and choked up when spoke of his friendship with Orfanos.
"It's insane the kind of bond you can have with someone instantly," Hoolihan said, crying. "I consider him my brother."
Though he had never met Orfanos' mother, Hoolihan tracked down her number Thursday.
"I wanted to give her a call and tell her how much her son meant to me," he said.
This article was written by Katie Mettler and Katie Zezima , reporters for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed reporting from Washington.