The Week Love Conquered Hate in San Bernardino, CA

Hate Kills, Love Heals!

December 2, 2015, is a date which shall live in infamy in the history of the City and County of San Bernardino, CA.

The scourge of terrorism descended on our city and county like a thunderclap on a dark night.

It was the worst international terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2011.

Syed Farook, 28,  and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 27, dressed in combat gear and armed with assault rifles entered a facility where county health workers were assembled and sprayed them with bullets.

Fourteen members of our community lay dead. Nearly two dozen were injured. The suffering inflicted on the community by these two individuals is immeasurable and incomprehensible.

Farhan Khan, Farook’s brother-in-law, was devastated by the unspeakable crime. “I am very sad, deeply sad and shocked, something like this happened here in my community. I love this country. … On behalf of my family, we all are shocked and very sorry for what happened.”

Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations “unequivocally” condemned the “horrific act.” He said, “We stand in solidarity with fellow Americans as we offer our condolences. We stand in solidarity in repudiating any possible ideology or mindset that could have led to such a horrific act.”

Farook and his wife lived with us in our community.

Farook got his education in our university. He was employed in our county. He enjoyed and exercised his democratic freedoms to free speech, to peaceably assembly and to the free exercise of his beliefs without interference in our community.

We shared our American Dream with him and his wife.Terror 7

For reasons only known to them, they chose to share with us their demented nightmare of terrorism, extremism, fanaticism and vengeful  religious radicalism.

I am grateful to all of my concerned friends, supporters and readers of my weekly commentaries throughout the world who sent me heartfelt messages of condolences. I must say they all seem to be puzzled how the tentacles of terrorism could reach from Paris to San Bernardino so quickly.

I have been asking that same question myself.

How is it that San Bernardino became a target for an outrageous act of terrorism?  I don’t mean to suggest that any city anywhere deserves to be targeted for any terrorist act.

I just could not imagine how San Bernardino could be singled out as a “high value target” for any sleeper agents of international terrorism.

San Bernardino is not a center of national or international politics.  It is not a focal point of diplomacy. It is not a hub of commerce. It is not a metropolitan center. It is not a nerve center of intelligence or military operations. It is not a flashy town.

The City of San Bernardino was once a blue-collar town with a solid middle class. The last recession and housing bust hit the city very hard. In 2012, with nearly $50 million in the red, the city filed for bankruptcy.

I do not know why a couple with a 6-month old baby would decide to walk into a facility and mow down dozens of county health workers and bystanders with assault rifles.

Could one ascribe such total depravity only to religious fanaticism? Could such depravity be born of utter self-hatred?

Why this couple would choose to target people whose mission is to save lives, I will never know.

But who could possibly know what evil lurks in the heart of a man and a woman driven to extremes by religious hatred and self-loathing?

Who can look into the heart of darkness of the terrorist to search for reason? Into the eyes of those blinded by revenge  for understanding? Into the mind of the mindless fanatic?

Who can gaze into the emptiness of the soulless terrorist? Who can cure the terrorist’s sickness of the soul?

But I know those health workers who died and were injured on December 2 lost their lives saving the lives of the people in their community.

Each one of them toiled every day to protect the health and well-being of our community. Those who work for the county health department are responsible for preventing epidemics and spread of disease.  They are on the front lines safeguarding the community against environmental hazards. They respond to disasters and assist families in recovery.  They promote  and encourage  healthy life styles and assure  quality and accessibility of health services throughout the county.

The people who were murdered in the terror attack on December 2, 2015 were the best of the best in the City and County of San Bernardino.

I came to San Bernardino over 25 years ago to teach at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB).

I was immediately overtaken by the natural beauty of the city, county and our campus.

San Bernardino County is the largest county in the United States. The majesty of the San Bernardino National Forest attracts millions who slip away for a weekend of camping, hiking, skiing or sightseeing. The serenity of the Mojave National Preserve is ruffled only by the screams of soaring Golden eagles and hawks patrolling overhead. The surreal geologic architecture of Joshua Tree National Park is a mystifying wonder in a vast wilderness. Not far is Death Valley where one cannot only see but also touch the Milky Way over the Racetrack Playa horizon.

I believe I know why the English group “Christie” sang “San Bernardino”, the #1 song throughout Europe in 1970.

That song is about an individual who searches the world for inner peace and having found none returns to San Bernardino, a place of eternal sun. Here are two of the five stanzas in the lyrics of the song “San Bernardino”:

I’ve been all around this great big world
To Paris and to Rome
And I’ve never found a place that I
Could really call my own
But there’s one place where I know
The sun is shining endlessly
And it’s calling me across the sea
So I must get back to San Bernardino.

I remember when I was sixteen
My daddy said to me
“You could travel round this universe
“Until eternity,
“But you’ll never find that peace of mind
“That you’ve been dreamin’ of,
“Not until you finally decide
“To come on home to San Bernardino.

I can’t help but wonder if Seyd Farook and Tashfeen Malik came “across the sea”  to San Bernardino escaping a place where they could not get peace of mind,  looking for a place they can call their own and finding a home in San Bernardino.

On December 2, 2015, the peace of mind of the people of San Bernardino was shattered.

On December 2, 2015, the terrorism that haunted Paris, London, Rome, Nairobi and so many other cities in the world arrived in San Bernardino.

The sun that shone endlessly on San Bernardino suddenly set. It was darkness at noon in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015.

In a flash of the muzzle of the assault rifle, so many innocent lives were lost. So many lives changed forever.

But there is a very personal side to the story that I would like my readers throughout the world to know about the terror attack in San Bernardino.

Syed Farook graduated from my university, California State University, San Bernardino, in 2010 with a degree in health sciences.

So did six of his victims including one from a sister institution.

Robert C. Adams graduated in 2011 with a degree in public health education. He worked as environmental health inspector.

Juan C. Espinoza graduated in 2002 with a degree in biology. He worked as environmental health inspector.

Shannon H. Johnson graduated in 2004 with a degree in environmental health science. He worked as environmental health inspector.

Yvette A. Velasco graduated in 2013 with a degree in environmental health science. She worked as an environmental health specialist.

Michael R. Wetzel graduated in 2001 with a degree in biology. He worked as an environmental health specialist.

Tin Nguyen, a graduate of a sister institution at Cal State Fullerton, fled Vietnam to escape persecution with her mother at age 8. She worked as a food inspector.

Two victims “came across the sea” escaping terror and repression in their home countries and to find peace in San Bernardino.

Isaac Amanios Gebreselassie came to California from the East African country of Eritrea to make a new life in America. He worked as environmental health inspector.

Bennetta Bet-Badal fled Iran as a teenager to escape persecution following the Iranian Revolution. She worked as environmental health inspector.

The other victims lived in the city and surrounding communities.

Sierra Clayborn was a young woman who worked as an environmental health specialist.

Harry Bowman worked as an expert on national security and terrorism before he joined the County.

Aurora Godoy worked as an office assistant.

Larry D. Kaufman ran a coffee shop inside the facility where the terrorist crimes were committed.

Nicholas Thalasinos worked as health inspector.

Damian Meins worked as an environmental health inspector.

There were many others who were injured including Julie Swann-Paez, Jennifer Stevens, Denise Peraza, Kevin Ortiz, Anies Kondoker, Nicholas Koahou, Amanda Gaspard and Patrick Baccari.

Terror Victims 2Over a thousand people from the community joined Cal State University San Bernardino students, faculty, staff and alumni for an emotional  candle light vigil  to remember the 14 innocent lives lost and 22 others injured in the senseless terrorist act.

CSUSB President Tomas Morales best captured the campus’ sense of sorrow, outrage, defiance and solidarity against those who aim to “intimidate” our community”:

The terrorist acts of December 2 have been devastating for CSUSB and the greater San Bernardino community. Among the 14 people killed, five of our alumni perished at the Inland Regional Center, leaving friends and families distraught,” said Tomás D. Morales, President, California State University, San Bernardino. “But I also know the power and resilience of the people of San Bernardino. While we grieve for those lost, we will not be intimidated or weakened. This tragedy will only strengthen the bond that connects us all.

The death toll and injuries would have been far worse but for the swift and professional response of San Bernardino Police, fire and emergency first responders who were on the scene within minutes providing triage care and tracked down the terrorist attackers before they did more damage. The rapid reaction local law enforcement and the cooperative efforts of state and federal counter-terrorism efforts will serve as a national and even international model in responding to terrorists attacks. They all deserve enormous credit.

Love heals, the body and soul!

Tad Loma Linda

The week of December 2, 2015 was also a time of love and healing in San Bernardino.

I want all my readers throughout the world to know that the events of December 2 did not make San Bernardino a broken community. We are a healing community above all.

There was point of light in the darkness that enveloped us on December 2.

As the news of the San Bernardino terror attacks dominated world news, a tiny ripple of hope, charity and faith was reverberating among the poor and homeless citizens in our community.

Tad Worku, a 29-year old Ethiopian American, was putting the final touches on his “Love is All” free clinic at the Loma Linda Academy Gym.

Tad, a business graduate of Pacific Union College subsequently got his degree in nursing and worked  as an emergency room (ER) nurse at Loma Linda Medical Center, next door to San Bernardino. Ironically, Tad was not scheduled to work in the emergency room o December 2.  When he heard some of the terror victims would be sent to his ER, he rushed over there as did many of his other off-duty colleagues.

Tad had been working for 10 months in partnership with the Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) to put on a two-day free clinic for the poor and homeless in San Bernardino.

Tad led his team in organizing dozens of volunteer dentists, physicians, dental hygienists, dental assistants, nurses, counselors, massage therapists, and other medical and nonmedical professionals to join his “Love is All” free clinic at the Loma Linda Academy Gym for two days of free medical services.

The “Love is All” clinic provided free dental care including cleaning, fillings, extraction, X-ray exam and restorative treatment as needed. Dental patients were offered follow-up through SACH clinic in San Bernardino.

Free optical care was provided including eye exam and prescriptions, free frames and lens and eye health and cataract screening.

On December 5 and 6, a total of 817 patients from the San Bernardino community were seen at the “Love is all” clinic. 381 of those patients received dental care; 300 vision care and 136 general medical care.

I was privileged to spend the day at the “Love is All” clinic observing people coming in to get care. It is humbling to see so many people in dire need getting medical care which they would not get but for the clinic. It is so heartwarming to see so many of them walk out with smiles on their faces and a spring in their steps.

Tad and his team toiled for months to bring about healing to our community with love. Tad believes “many of our San Bernardino neighbors” are too poor to afford regular medical care. “They are often forced to make a choice between paying rent and meeting their daily needs and walking around with a tooth pain or untreated diabetes or heart disease.”

When I first met Tad, I asked him why he would walk away  from a music contract that offered him “the world” to begin a nursing program at Loma Linda University.

Terror 6

Tad said he came to the realization that if he cannot use his music to “connect with his desire to serve human need”, then he would rather take a different path to the nursing profession where he “could see the immediate benefit of his actions in the lives of others.”

Tad told me, “I want to live out my faith in a very tangible way that impacts those in need, while inspiring others to do the same. I believe we are just scratching the surface of what is possible.”

Given the choice to serve humanity and serving  himself with fame and fortune, Tad chose service to humanity and the community of  San Bernardino.

Tad’s song “Me” is an extraordinarily moving ballad which explains beautifully why he took his path to serving others and walk away from the flash and glitz of Tinseltown. It explains why he was not willing to sell himself  for fleeting fame and fortune and sacrifice service to humanity. It is a deeply moving song.

Tad  explains, “I think the purpose of my music is to offer hope. There is so much need in this world and at times it is overwhelming to think about. I want to use my music, as well as the proceeds from my music, to offer hope to a broken world. I write the story of the Gospel into all of my songs in one way or another because I believe that the story of what Jesus did for us is the foundation of hope.”

Tad and his AMEN team brought hope and true love and healing to San Bernardino when we need it most.

Tad and his AMEN team brought hope and healing to a community suddenly torn by terrorism and unspeakable violence.

I am so proud of  having Tad Worku living and serving our larger San Bernardino community.

There are those who kill because of hate. There are those who heal because of love. We saw that played out in San Bernardino in the first week of December 2015.

Some choose to use their “faith in a very tangible way that impacts those in need, while inspiring others to do the same.” Others choose to pervert their faith to kill and maim.

I wish during the week of December 2 the world would have not only of the murderous spree of a demented couple but also of the dozens of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who freely gave up their weekend to serve hundreds of poor and homeless people in the San Bernardino community.

Bad news and falsehood travel at the speed of light, but good news and the truth travel like the train that is nearly always late.

In the first week of December 2015, we witnessed a contest between good and evil and love and hate in San Bernardino. I say good and love conquered evil and hate.

I never expected to witness the struggle between love and hate and good and evil resolved in such a stark and deeply personal way.

I am now convinced beyond the shadow of doubt that in the struggle between hate and love, love always conquers hate.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I am confident we will drive out  the darkness of hate that lurks in our hearts with the light of love. That is the sad but inspirational message I have learned from the senseless act of terror on December 2 in the City of San Bernardino.

The 14 innocent lives lost and the two dozen individuals injured will always be remembered, not for the crimes that were committed on them, but for the exemplary lives they lived serving, protecting and healing their communities from disease and pestilence.

We can eradicate and drive out the pestilence of hate with love for our fellow human beings when each one of us makes  a personal commitment to justice, fairness and equality for all.

The couple who massacred and injured so many people inflicted deep wounds and unspeakable horror in our community. They caused us unspeakable sadness, heartache and sorrow.

But did they win? Did their cowardly and hateful international sponsors and leaders win?

Terrorists win only under one condition– when they make us haters like themselves.

In San Bernardino, I believe love has and will continue to conquered hate.  The sun will continue to shine endlessly and we will find peace of mind stolen from us once again at home in San Bernardino.

I believe all the great faiths of the world inspire people to do good, to be kind and compassionate. But it it easy to pervert faith and use it to justify doing evil.  Such perversion of faith is not the monopoly of any one faith.

When evil is done in the name of faith, the fault is not in the faith. The fault is in ourselves, in our hearts and minds. All of us have a choice to pervert and warp the teachings of our faith for evil or exert and practice our faith to do good and to help each other.

I am convinced that the best and most effective weapon against terrorism is simply refusing to hate.

Without blind hate there could be no terrorism. That is why we must keep our eyes open and remain eternally vigilant against those who propagate hate as we make a commitment to find ways of avoiding violence and keeping  love of our fellow human beings in our hearts at all time.

Gandhi  said love and non-violence are the “greatest forces at the disposal of mankind.” They are “mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

The sun will shine endlessly once again in San Bernardino and the darkness of terror will be only a “fleeting shadow.”

There will also be another song written about San Bernardino, the place so many of us call our own, the  one place we know the sun will shine endlessly.

Terror 4