Effects of San Bernardino attacks reach Mountain Area

The mass shooting that tore through a San Bernardino health center this week was defined by horror as news spread how a husband and wife, with no motive yet known, shot and killed 14 people at an office Christmas party while wounding 21 more.

Emotions spread across the state and world at the devastation wrought upon all the victims and their families, inspiring responses from political figures nationwide.

“Our first order of business is to send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who’ve been killed,” President Barack Obama said, “and to pray for a speedy recovery for those who were injured during this terrible attack.”

At the Sierra Star in Oakhurst, the attacks reached even closer.

Two of the newspaper’s employees have family members in the area, including a stepmother who left the Inland Regional Center for developmentally disabled adults about 15 mintues before the shooting took place.

“She could have gone down to that Christmas party,” said Lisa Baker, whose stepmother provides physical therapy at the center and went out on a call before the attack. “That is frightening. She told me it’s a place where they help disabled individuals ... she was flabbergasted a place like that would be where somebody could attack.”

Sheri Hand grew up in San Bernardino, and said she was left frantically searching for information when she learned about the attacks through an online post by her sister, who works as an aid at a school for mentally disabled adults two miles from the center.

“I saw she posted ‘A shootout at a building near me, and we are on lockdown,’” Hand said. “I thought for sure it was happening in her building.”

Hand said she attempted to contact her sister, who didn’t respond for 45 minutes.

And that, Hand said, made things worse, as she watched live video feeds and scanned news reports, looking to see if her sister was caught in the tragedy.

“I immediately texted her, and she didn’t answer,” Hand said. “It scared the heck out of me, because I thought she was there, and that the shooters were in there with her.”

After she and her brother, who lives in Yucaipa east of the attacks, repeatedly tried to contact their sister, they finally got a response.

“She said ‘no, we’re on lockdown two miles away, and all the kids are safe,’” Hand said. “I was beyond relieved.”

Both Baker and Hand said the shootings are a representation of how everyone should remember, in any tragedy, there are people, even coworkers in a small town like Oakhurst, who can be affected.

And, they added, it’s important to remember the effects simply don’t disappear.

“This is horrible,” Baker said. “It’s horrible when it happens here, it’s horrible when it happens in Iraq, it’s horrible when it happens in France ... When you have a tragedy where 14 people die, there’s going to be lasting effects. You can’t ever really get over that. It’s sad when people stop caring, just because it wasn’t directly related to them.”

“Something like this is sad, and it shows how this is truly a small world,” Hand said.