Family, friends and colleagues joined Cal State San Bernardino faculty, staff and students on Dec. 2 for A Day of Remembrance to honor the memory of 14 people — five of them CSUSB alumni — who died in a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center on the same date in 2015.
The memorial was held at CSUSB’s Peace Garden, which was created three years ago in memory of the five alumni, all graduates from the university’s College of Natural Sciences: Robert Adams, Yucaipa (public health education, 2011); Juan Espinoza, Highland (biology, 2002); Shannon Johnson, Los Angeles (environmental health science, 2004); Yvette Velasco, Fontana (environmental health science, 2013); and Michael Wetzel, Lake Arrowhead (biology, 2001).
Located next to the college’s Chemical Sciences Building, the garden has five large boulders, five benches, five trees and a five-sided pedestal on which a bell stands. Each side of the pedestal has the name of one of the CSUSB alumni.
Each year on Dec. 2 the bell is rung 14 times, once for each life lost in the attack.
The other victims were Isaac Amanios, Fontana; Bennett Bet-Badal, Rialto; Harry Bowman, Upland; Sierra Clayborn, Moreno Valley; Aurora Godoy, San Jacinto; Larry Daniel Kaufman, Rialto; Damien Meins, Riverside; Tin Nguyen, Santa Ana; and Nicholas Thalasinos, Colton.
They all were San Bernardino County Department of Public Health employees who were at the Inland Regional Center for a training session and holiday party.
The program began with Michael Nguyen, a lecturer from the Department of Health Science & Human Ecology who rang the Peace Garden Bell 14 times.
College of Natural Sciences Dean Sastry Pantula welcomed the attendees.
“It is with peace in our hearts, we come together to cherish the memories of our loved ones, our friends, our former students, and our college community. It is with peace in our hearts, we wish together that such senseless shootings be eliminated forever around the globe,” Pantula said. “It is with peace in our hearts, we imagine a better future, for those who are gathered here today.”
William Vandyke, also a lecturer from the Department of Health Science & Human Ecology, talked about how the university, the college and specifically the department has been affected in dealing with the loss.
Erica Porteous, sister of victim Yvette Velasco, spoke on behalf of the families and the pain they feel from that tragic day.
“Not a day goes by that we feel the loss and the pain that comes with Yvette not physically being with us,” said Porteous, who held a framed picture of her sister.
The ceremony concluded with Nguyen re-ringing the Peace Bell.
Velasco’s mother, Marie, said the family relives the pain of their loss whenever there’s another mass shooting. She said when she sees news reports of mothers searching for their children, she instantly remembers the pain of learning the loss of her daughter.
“We know what it feels like,” Marie Velasco said. “We have lived that pain.”