One by one they came; some in pairs, others in groups of three.Gingerly each one approached a grieving father who was clutching 12 roses forthose who understood, better than most, the agony of losing loved ones so tragicallysix days earlier.
Standing before a crowd of over 1300 gatherers, Jason Coffmaninvited the relatives of those killed with his son Cody at the Borderline Barand Grill to join him. He had one rose for each family.
“I am absolutely grieving just like all of you guys,” said Jason through tears. “I’m going to be okay. I know that the families are going to be okay because, by God, look at our community.”
The mourners included those who were at Borderline for its country college night on the day of the shooting. They merged with the family members, forming a circle, embracing one another and crying. Some even knelt in salute and prayer.
“It’s precious,” said Rob McCoy, mayor pro tem of Thousand Oaks as he stood among the mourners. “Our city has been deeply wounded. These are the events that heal us. One person shattered the lives of 13 families and we’re going to pick the pieces up.”
Jason’s son Cody was a close friend of many in the Shoreline Sector of the Los Angeles Church of Christ, who organized the Tuesday night vigil on behalf of the shooting victims and survivors of the Woolsey and Hill fires. Grief counselors, public officials, and state representatives were present to lend support. Some of the supporters were victims themselves.
“We lost many things in these fires,” said State Senator Henry Stern, whose own Malibu home was destroyed by the Woolsey fire. “But they are things…stuff. Love is binding all of us together tonight.” Stern’s 27th state senate district includes Bell Canyon, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Malibu, all impacted by the fires that have charred more than 100,000 acres combined and destroyed 370 structures.
Friends of 22-year-old Cody shared their favorite memories of their roommate’s antics, playing baseball and football together, working together, and fishing for bass.
“What I will miss most about Cody is his laughter. He had that one special laugh and one special smile,” said Brandon Garza, 21, Cody’s best friend who is stationed with the Marines in Hawaii and was granted permission to return for the vigil and funeral. Garza said Cody was interested in becoming a Naval Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician. “He’s not only my best friend but he will always be my brother. We had each other’s back. Now that Cody is gone, I feel the need to fulfill his dream of serving, to go out there every day and give it my 110%. I feel like that is what he would want me to do, serve with a purpose.”
The event was hosted by disciples of the North Region in the Los Angeles Church of Christ who supplied desserts, cases of water, stage set up, and many other needs as they arose throughout the evening. Song leaders from several ministries joined forces to set the tone through an array of songs and hymns that included Amazing Grace and Wind Beneath My Wings.
“I think the reason why we thought of doing this is because at a time like this, it’s easy to get angry, to want to seek justice,” said Joe Collins, lead evangelist of the Simi Valley Sector in the North Region. “But I think what we wanted to put out there was just love. Our love for the community and our love for God.”
Photos by Shelley Jones.
See also: Hope Shines Through the Pain