By Emmanuel Gutierrez |Features Editor|
“It may be difficult to dream when you’re still bleeding,” said CSUSB professor Dr. Dany Doueiri at the CSUSB vigil, honoring the victims of the San Bernardino mass shooting; but there is still hope to rise from this tragedy.
Two tables, lined with lit candles, sat on either side of the podium where representatives of the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian faiths addressed the audience.
Everyone rose to their feet, applauding the bravery of the first responders to the shootings.
Fingers cupped around dancing flames, protecting them from the nippy winds that wished to steal the light away.
And the clock tower struck for each
Students who paid their respects at the vigil shared where they were and what they were doing during the San Bernardino mass shooting.
“I was getting out of class. I got an automated message from the school,” said student Frank Varela.
Student Robert Quintana-Gaona said
he was in the Communications TV lab and that it was between takes of a production when a student informed the class.
“I was kind of indifferent because San Bernardino has had its fair share of gang-related violence. I just didn’t understand the severity of the situation,” said Quintana-Gaona.
Student Kourtney Jones had gotten off work and immediately called her mother.
“She works at a school nearby and they were in lock down. Her safety was on my mind all day. I just didn’t know what was happening,” said Jones.
Many Coyotes were in class or at work during the shootings and contacted loved ones as soon as humanly possible, sending thoughts and prayers to those affected, but some outside the city were not as sympathetic.
“Something that upset me, a lady mentioned it was another ghetto incident in San Bernardino,” said Varela. “Some people can just be pure ugly sometimes.”
A Coyote addressed the impact of the shootings and attempted to evaluate other perspectives.
“Nearly everyday, I think about my emotions. I can’t even compare them to what the families are feeling,” said Jones. “All I can do is keep them in my heart.”
Some students mulled over on the recent updates pertaining to the shooters.
“I just found out [Syed Rizwan Farook] was a graduate from here,” said Juan Cazares.
“That’s a scary thought because there’s a distance to the situation when you hear about it on the news, but that information, for some reason, brings it closer,” continued Cazares.
Cazares said he found it perplexing that people, today, would still automatically associate Islam with terrorism.
“Terrorism comes in all colors and ideologies. People shouldn’t stereotype every Muslim as a terrorist,” added Cazares.
But it wasn’t all dark that night at the vigil. Hundreds of lights dotted the vicinity.
“It was truly a beautiful and moving sight to see not only my school, but my community come together to light up a time of pure darkness,” said student McKenzie Gutierrez.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this community. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who were affected. Together, we are strong,” added Gutierrez
During the moment of silence, I prayed—for the families, for the lives lost, for the lives still wandering today.
During the moment of silence, I couldn’t shake the memories of that unforgettable day . . . .
A member of the Washington Post called the Coyote Chronicle, seeking a reporter to cover the scene on their behalf.
Opinions Editor Loydie Burmah and I responded.
I drove and Loydie was my fearless co-pilot, feeding me directions from MapQuest, juggling cell phones, and ultimately became our direct link to the Post.
We drove around the perimeter for approximately two and a half hours, trying to get past each entry point, but each time we were stopped.
We did not have media ID and due to the high alert raised and the shooters still on the loose, our chances of entering, we found, were extremely slim.
We didn’t falter in our endeavors.
However, the longer we circled the entry points, the wider the protective perimeter expanded.
Sheriff Newman, our first contact with law enforcement, was respectful and patient, hearing us out in our efforts to enter.
Of course, because he could not verify our contact from the Post via cell phone and without documentation, we could not.
Awaiting a callback from the Post, we made a quick pit-stop at a gas station to refuel. An older, worried couple drove by in a classic Dodge muscle car.
“They closed the pump. Too close to the shootings,” said the older gentleman, waving good-bye.
I thanked him and cruised away, nursing the gas pedal to another hide-away. Our contact e-mailed us documentation, stating that we were officially operating on behalf of the Washington Post.
During one of our efforts, a member of the F.B.I., if I am not mistaken, cussed us out. I saw some of the veins in his face spiderweb in outrage.
Part of me felt as though much of his response was influenced by his perception of us: just a couple of kids he wanted to keep out of danger.
The other part of me, perhaps referred to as the prejudicial part that isn’t too happy with current police action, was unpleasantly not surprised.
Once he finally decided to hear us out, he too disregarded the documentation. I apologized and thanked him for his time—not facetiously as I normally would. But it certainly would have felt good to have done so.
Sometime during our circling of the perimeter, I missed a turn and had to pop a U-ie—legally—and on a separate occasion, I accidentally drove on to the freeway.
I joked that I’d be the worst get-away driver ever—the antithesis of Ryan Gosling’s character from “Drive.”
Loydie facetiously took offense to my joke. “Why would I commit a crime? Because I’m black?” she asked and rolled her eyes.
The stress was getting to us. We were mentally drained and hella hungry. I spotted a nearby McDonald’s and upon a whim, recommended we stop there to have a quick bite and conserve gas.
I think I saw Loydie raise an eyebrow in surprise; I’m allergic to MSG and I would never consider myself a McDonald’s aficionado, so I was obviously a little desperate for some grub.
We ordered chicken nuggets, a McDouble, and a couple of sweetened iced teas.
In the drive thru, I spotted a homeless man holding a sign that said, to the effect of, any help would be appreciated.
I felt useless for not being on the scene and reporting for the Washington Post. I was a journalist who wasn’t “journalizing” and I really wanted to make a difference. Right then, I felt we could actually do something.
So, we bought him a Big Mac, large Coke and fries. Rather, Loydie bought him a Big Mac; she beat me to the punch.
He graciously thanked us and shared his story, of which he’s probably recited hundreds of times—I saw the jaded look in his eye, but pain, too, was evident in his gaze.
He and his wife were in a terrible car accident. He was fine, but she was in a more critical state. He had to sell their home to pay off the medical bills. That was about four months ago; she is still in a coma.
After a hasty lunch, a quick prayer in the restroom (on my part), and prep time for the camera equipment, we tried the point we initially attempted again, the route secured by Sheriff Newman.
We hoped he’d allow us to enter with our newly obtained documentation.
He was nowhere to be found; however, another sheriff stood in his place.
Sheriffs are so friendly and awesome. He too exhibited the respect and patience Newman showed us. Unfortunately, he deemed the documentation invalid as well and we left.
Loydie called the contact from the Washington Post to report our fruitless ventures, once more. The contact thanked us for jumping at the opportunity, despite it taking a tragedy to bring the Post and the Chronicle together.
And we thanked her for the opportunity.
Back at the newsroom, I paced back and forth, listening to the live helicopter footage. I heard the reporter doing his best to describe the action.
He said something about suspects in a home, a vehicle, and gunfire. It was all a hazy mess for me.
All I could think was: “I was there. I was so close.” And it terrified me.
I stopped pacing and asked Loydie, “isn’t the air heavy? Like it’s hard to breath.”
She turned to me and sighed, “yes.”
And I felt horrible because I was doing what more than a dozen people couldn’t that day: I was breathing.