It was surreal! A Wednesday started out like most Wednesdays. Walking to the coffee shop. Trying to write. Walking back home. Turning on CNN just to see if there is any “breaking news” really breaking. The scene looks familiar. Are they talking about something happening in San Bernardino? That building on the screen looks familiar. Did they say “Waterman”? “Inland Regional Center”? Slowly it sinks in. A mass shooting has just happened at a facility, in a conference room Linda had facilitated in several times, with people from many agencies of San Bernardino County, one where I had been at least a couple of times.
Then Linda arrived home. She had already heard while having coffee with a friend at Olive Avenue Market. We continued to watch the TV with minds suspended in dis-belief. “Fourteen people dead, nineteen wounded, the shooters still on the loose.” It was still a little after Noon when we heard about a gun battle between police and inhabitants of a black SUV. Two people shot dead. Possibility of a shooter still on the loose. We decided to keep our regular 2 p.m. workout time at Anytime Fitness. I had an appointment for my first of five sessions with a personal trainer. We continued the conversation about what was happening. Everyone at the gym was also on the same topic. My new personal trainer felt it important to make a comment, not sure why she thought I needed to hear it: “It’s not the gun – it’s the person.” I just let that slide without a comeback like “Well, maybe it’s the person with the gun.” I just didn’t feel like responding. I still don’t. But I am sure I will.
By the time we arrived back at our apartment we noticed there was an unusual amount of activity on our block. Police cars were gathering at the curve on Center Street in front of our place. We had planned our usual Gang Happy Hour at our friend Tomi’s who lives in the Townhome complex on the next street over. As we left for our usual walk across the property on the other side of the street we were stopped by a loud shout from a policemen who let us know we were not to go in that direction. Then we noticed that there were a number of very large SWAT type vehicles parked across the street about two buildings to the south of us. One was parked, not in the street, but right on the grass in front of 53 North Center (we live at 80 North Center). We decided to go to our carport and drive to Tomi’s house. We barely made it before the streets were all blocked and cordoned off.
As we sat in front of Tomi’s TV we began to piece together the story that the house at 53 North Center was where the shooters may have lived. Today it was confirmed. We learned recently that there was a virtual arsenal of weapons and bomb apparatus in the two story home. Somehow we made it back to our apartment last night, after a circuitous route and parking our car two blocks away, then talking a police officer into allowing us to walk in to the restricted area to get home.
By this morning we awoke to a media circus just outside our front yard. Every news outlet had multiple trucks, SUVs and cars, huge satellite dishes, video cameras and microphones everywhere. The experience of watching on TV and looking out our front and back windows at the same scenes was also surreal.
Linda and I have often remarked as we watch tragedy after tragedy going on in our world how fortunate we feel for living in a small community like Redlands, feeling so safe and secure, while so many people are suffering, those living in refugee camps, those displaced by war, those dying of preventable diseases and starvation. We still do feel very lucky to be alive.
But I hope we never take our lives for granted. They can end in a heartbeat, in the flash from the barrel of an assault rifle or an automatic handgun, as the families of the fourteen who died and the nineteen who narrowly escaped death yesterday, at a workplace Holiday celebration, well know.
December 3, 2015