“Are you watching the news about the shooting?”
It was about noon on Wednesday, December 2, when I received this text from my daughter. I was in bed trying to ward off the flu, and no, I wasn’t watching the news.
“What shooting?” I asked. There was no reply so I walked to the den and turned on the TV where reporters told of the horrific shooting not far, far away, but very close to home. A shooter had opened fire at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, just a few miles from my home.
I grew up in Loma Linda, a stone’s throw away from Regional Center and in the shadow of the Medical Center. My mother, a nurse and special education teacher, worked at Regional Center for season when I was young. When I was a nursing student at Loma Linda University, I learned about the services that the center provided to those with disabilities. Even my husband, who is the director of the Physical Therapy program at Loma Linda University, is acquainted with the center.
As I watched the coverage, I felt numb. This really can’t be happening, not here. Why here? Why San Bernardino, of all places? We aren’t Paris, after all. With the gunmen on the loose and no information on their whereabouts, I realized how vulnerable I was. Yes, I was locked in my house in Redlands, but I was unarmed without a way to defend myself. I urged my daughter, who also lives in Redlands, to stay home.
After awhile, I turned off the TV—I could only take so much of the continual sensational news coverage. Several hours later, I checked in again and learned that fourteen people had been killed and seventeen others were wounded. Many of the wounded were taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center. In addition, the police had killed the gunmen (at least we thought then they were men). I felt shock at the carnage, sadness at the senseless murders, and relief that the shooters had been killed. Along with others, I suspected that this was ISIS related while the media hypothesized about workplace violence.
Thursday morning I watched the press conference held by Kerry Heinrich, the CEO of Loma Linda University Medical Center. I have worked as nurse for 32 years at Loma Linda, first in the NICU, then in Peri-Anesthesia and now at PACE. Mr. Heinrich said that not only had Loma Linda received many of the wounded from the San Bernardino shootings, but they had also received a bomb threat around the same time. He praised that hospital staff who remained calm and carried on as officers searched the hospital.
Later I met with a friend who asked how I was. I said I was OK, but really I think I was just numb. She told me that the day of the shooting, the police came and urged everyone in her Redlands office building to go home. The shooters’ home was in Redlands, just a mile away and he warned of potential violence. Her old office had been even closer—just three blocks from what became focus of the FBI as well as a media circus.
Thursday evening the names of the dead were released. One of my husband’s colleagues had a friend who was killed. One of the people killed was a Messianic Jew who was a member of a friend’s church. Another victim was from Lake Arrowhead and was known by people in my church community. This tragedy had rippled out and touched us all in some way, some much more than others.
Friday I went to work and spent more time with my patients than usual. Somehow this crisis brought us together. As my patients left, I urged them to stay safe. Between patients, we learned that the media had gained entrance into the shooters’ Center Street home in Redlands. We watched in disbelief as reporters rummaged through the house, in what should have still been a crime scene. Later the FBI announced that the shootings at Regional Center was an act of terrorism, confirming my earlier suspicions. Finally, a news anchor announced that the San Bernardino shooting is the biggest act of terror in the U.S. since 9/11. And this is all happening in my neighborhood. Where is Mr. Rogers when you need him?
Why here? Why Redlands? Why my community? Why San Bernardino?
Later, I left work and drove to Redlands, passing Center Street. Multiple satellites lined the street indicating that the media was still among us. After my workout, I drove around town where holiday lights announced the Christmas season. I stopped in at Trader Joes to see my daughter who works there. The store looked and sounded like Christmas with its holiday displays and carols playing overhead. This contrast of Christmas against carnage was jolting. How can we think of Christmas at a time like this? But we must move on. We must keep living.
As I left the store, I hugged my daughter extra hard and gave her a smooch. She squealed in disgust. Tough cookies, sweetheart. I want you to know that I love you, just in case this is our last goodbye.
GENEVA CHINNOCK works as a nurse at Loma Linda University Medical Center and has lived in the Loma Linda/Redlands area for...longer than she wants to admit. She is a writer and author of Becoming His Beloved: Journey into the Father’s Affection. She blogs about matters of faith at TreasuredbyGod.com.