San Bernardino honors terror attack victims with 'Night of Remembrance' memorial
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (FOX 11 / AP) - "A year ago at this exact time I was still in surgery and would be for a few more hours," terror attack survivor Julie Swann-Paez, said as she bravely spoke at the anniversary ceremony of the San Bernardino terror attack which killed 14 of her colleagues.
"I never got to mourn them properly because I was in the process of fighting for my own life and then fighting for my own recovery," Swann-Perez said.
The community is also recovering.
What unfolded on December 2, 2015 at the Inland Regional Center left the county and the nation in disbelief when a terrorist couple opened fired at workplace holiday party.
"Even though one year ago today our community was shocked by violence I believe we were aided by many miracles including the heroic efforts of our brave men and women who responded to the call active shooter," Carey Davis, San Bernardino Mayor, said.
The 14 people killed in the attack were represented at Friday night's service with 14 yellow bouquets on stage.
Twenty-two others were injured and dozens more inside the building were forever traumatized.
The San Bernardino Police Chief offered his encouraging words.
"We can show the world that this event will not define us, it will not control us and it will not destroy us," Jarrod Burguan, San Bernardino Police Chief, said.
The ceremony concluding with a reading of the names and a candlelight vigil with a song.
"God bless America my home sweet home," the choir sang.
A reminder for the community to remain, San Bernardino strong.
A Night of Remembrance ceremony at Cal State San Bernardino:
The hardscrabble city of 216,000 people east of Los Angeles is preparing to mark the anniversary of the Dec. 2 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.
Police will hold a 14-mile memorial bicycle ride that will end near the site of the shooting. A brief memorial service also will be held there.
San Bernardino County employees will hold a moment of silence at 10:58 a.m. to remember when the first 911 call was placed, said Felisa Cardona, a county spokeswoman.
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.
"We just want to remember, honor and support each other," she said. "It's going to be a difficult day for all of us."
The city of San Bernardino will hold a public ceremony Friday evening. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians will 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.
On Friday, they will ride to remember the victims.
"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."
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