It is a new year in San Bernardino, Calif. The city seems normal in the wake of the terrorist shooting here on Dec. 2.
Fourteen people died and 21 were wounded during a Christmas party for county health workers. The victims came from cities in three counties. None lived in San Bernardino, but all worked here. Within hours of the event, people brought flowers, candles, pictures, signs and mementos to place at the closest intersection to the shooting. The covering grew daily. At night the lit candles could be seen from a distance.
Today many people are still struggling to cope with their pain and loss. There is a temptation to cover it all up and continue surviving, yet there also exists a need for spiritual connection. People are searching for peace in the midst of deep grief and trauma.
San Bernardino’s healing process has included a series of small gatherings and public events where pondering, prayers and PowerPoints remind us of our losses.
First there were prayer vigils in houses of worship and at our local stadium. Preachers and politicians took turns praying and presenting together – uniting across the usual lines of division. I spoke that first night at San Manuel Stadium, two days after the shooting, quoting comforting verses from the Scripture and lamenting with all who were still shocked and scared about what had happened.
The following Monday, five days into grief, I joined imams, rabbis, pastors and other spiritual leaders in an event to honor the dead, comfort the living and rally our faith community.
Our message was clear: We cannot accept this crime as the new norm of American life here or anywhere else. United by faith in God, we can overcome violence without sacrificing rights. People cried, people cheered, people prayed.
During the reception that followed, the networking and planning began. It continues today.
The healing process is painful and slow. The greater impact of what happened is beginning to sink in and counseling is rising.
Yet the growth of resiliency and hope has increased in the midst of suffering: Fundraising has netted over a million dollars for families of the victims of the shooting. Clergy that once didn’t talk with each other are in conversation. A letter from the San Bernardino Clergy Association warns against victimizing Muslims.
People are looking to their neighbor in a different way.