- A survivor of a mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, displayed intense pangs of survivor’s guilt in an interview after escaping the scene with his stepson.
- Thirteen people are dead: 11 victims, a police sergeant, and the suspect.
- The video of his interview provoked a strong response from people on Twitter empathizing with the man.
- In the video, the man said he regrets not stopping the shooter and is pained by the young age of the victims.
- Experts say survivor’s guilt is misplaced.
At 11:20 p.m. PT, an armed man approached the Borderline Bar & Grill, about 45 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and opened fire on staff and guests.
According to police, the attack left 13 dead, including a police sergeant and the shooter.
According to reports, about 200 people were inside the bar for its “College Country Night” when the attack happened.
One tearful eyewitness who was inside the bar with his stepson at the time spoke to KABC-TV shortly after the attack. On Twitter, people have been responding to the interview, saying the man is clearly suffering from survivor’s guilt.
KABC-TV interview with eyewitness whose stepson was inside Borderline bar.
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) November 8, 2018
“There was just young people – like, young, 18, 19, 20 – just having a great time,” he said. “And this maniac came in and started shooting people for no reason at all.
“These people have never hurt anybody in their lives, and they’re just kids – they’re just kids. I’m so sorry.”
He apologised again, saying he was sorry he wasn’t there when the shooter reloaded. “I’m 56, I’ve lived a life,” the man later said.
“I waited for my son, he didn’t follow me like I asked him to. So I was running back to get him and he came out. … She [his stepson’s mother] would have never forgiven me if he had gotten hurt or died.”
Clearly distressed and in shock, the man recounted how he had made sure his stepson was OK, then called 911.
“We had to get out of there, and I apologise for leaving,” he said.
The reporter in the video replied: “You don’t need to. Police got there within moments.”
But the man said, “It still feels like I didn’t do what I should have done.”
On Twitter, people commended the man’s bravery. “Hearing him apologise and feeling guilty for running for his life is heartbreaking,” one user said. Another responded, saying, “This man has nothing to apologise for.”
Hearing him apologize and feeling guilty for running for his life is heartbreaking. This all needs to stop NOW
— Cause I'm gangsta (@ElaineHaas) November 8, 2018
Horrifying and heartbreaking. Incredible interview, handled so deftly and sympathetically, really shows us the agony of experiencing something like this. Is there any hope that we can ever see an end to needless shootings?
— Kathy Parish (@kathyparish) November 8, 2018
Aww bless him. There was nothing he could do. He made sure his son was safe and got him out of there. This is so hard to watch xxx
— Lady In Black (@Ladyinblackness) November 8, 2018
In a blog post for Psychology Today, Diana Raab, who holds a doctorate in psychology, said survivor’s guilt happens when people experience a life-threatening situation. It is common among war veterans, transplant victims, aeroplane-crash survivors, and people who have lived through natural disasters such as tsunamis and hurricanes.
Some of the symptoms include flashbacks, feeling immobilized and numb or disconnected, feeling helpless, difficulty sleeping, fear, and even suicidal feelings.
According to a post on What’s Your Grief, the duration and intensity of survivor’s guilt can vary from person to person.
“But the underlying feelings are similar: feeling guilty that you survived when someone else died and that you do not deserve to live when another person did not,” the post reads. “In some cases, this includes feeling you could have done more to save another person, in other cases it is feeling guilty that another person died saving you.”
Raab laid out some ways to help you cope with survivor’s guilt. They include giving yourself time to grieve, thinking about who was really responsible, taking care of yourself physically and psychologically, and reminding yourself to feel good about the gift of survival and about the fact that you’re not alone.
“Guilt has a place in our emotional repertoire – it motivates us to make amends – but with survivor guilt, it’s misplaced,” Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, wrote in another post. “So grieve your losses, but remember that it wasn’t your fault, others are glad you’re still here, and that you can use your survival to pay it forward.”