SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. >> At the moment when shooters unleashed terror on San Bernardino a year ago, county employees remembered their fallen colleagues in silence late Friday morning.
A bell rang 14 times in memory of each person slain in the terror attack that also wounded 22 others at the Inland Regional Center.
“We will never forget that day or the victims of this senseless act of violence. We strive to move forward and search for the good that is in us all,” said Lavinia Johnson, executive director of the center.
During the ceremony outside the center, employees of nearby businesses who sheltered county workers during the chaos were thanked by Keith Nelson, the center’s chairman.
Among those attending was Zen Martinsen, 56, a clerical supervisor for the county. While she didn’t know the victims, she said county employees are like family.
“This affects everybody and I think it’s just really important that terrorism doesn’t win,” she said. “We can’t let it win.”
It was one of a series of events scheduled in the hardscrabble city of 216,000 people east of Los Angeles to mark the anniversary of the Dec. 2, 2015, attack by husband-and-wife assailants on a holiday luncheon for county health employees. Investigators say the attackers were inspired by the Islamic State group.
Earlier, cyclists conducted a 14-mile bike ride — one mile for each person who was killed.
Most of those killed in the attack by county health inspector Syed Rizwan Farook, and Farook’s Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik, were Farook’s colleagues.
The city of San Bernardino was to hold a public ceremony Friday evening, and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians planned to light up an iconic arrowhead landmark in the nearby foothills.
While the city of San Bernardino has been grappling with a spike in homicides this year, community residents have worked hard to prevent a hate-filled backlash to the terror attack. Clergy have formed an interfaith alliance, victims’ families have encouraged tolerance and Muslims residents undertook a campaign to educate neighbors about Islam.
Since the attack, San Bernardino police Sgt. Emil Kokesh said he has also been reminded of the need to stay fit. Kokesh arrived at the scene of the onslaught minutes after the shooting and was there for more than a day. He said he was sore for two weeks, which prompted him to take up cycling to get in shape with some fellow officers.
That led to the memorial bike ride.
“On that day, it pushed a lot of us to our limits — physically, mentally, and emotionally,” he said. Now, Kokesh said he often reminds his fellow officers: “You may work in an office, you may do investigations, and not do much field work anymore, but you are going to be the ones who respond to something like this, so stay fit, stay prepared.”
The Inland Regional Center provides case management services for people with developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism. The building where the attack occurred is still closed and is undergoing remodeling. It is expected to reopen in early 2017, and a memorial to the victims is planned, Kevin Urtz, the center’s associate executive director said.