A Community reacts with words and art ...
Words and Photo submitted by Liz Gonzalez
After flash floods turn streets into raging streams
and soak automobiles and homes in mud,after Santa Anas go on a rampage, toppling trees through roofs,
squashing cars with heavy branches,
launching palm fronds like torpedos,
after fires blacken the hillsides,
lick up an entire block of homes
the scent of wet burnt brush stuck in the air,
after the earthquakes, lost home, lost lives,
the Depression, the bankruptcy, the gangs,
the crime, the drugs, the boarded up buildings,
after the shooting at the Inland Regional Center
rained tears on the winter holidays,
we step outside in the stillness of the morning.
The first thing we see is the crown of mountains
surrounding the city, above them, the blue-blue sky
brushed with angel hair clouds.
The majestic view reminds us
San Bernardino is a land of opportunity
where young men from Mexico, the Midwest, the South
arrived with a few dollars and not much more
to work in the rail yard, citrus groves, anywhere muscle was needed
They made a home and family, and the city flourished.
San Bernardino can be saved. The people are tough and scrappy.
They know how to work hard. They can accept their differences,
make a community as strong, resilient, and wise as those mountains
like they’ve done after every tragedy.
Together, the people of San Bernardino can save themselves.
Inside the School on Lockdown, just blocks from the Mass Shooting
By Jessica Wyland
She said it was uncomfortable crouching under her desk for two and a half hours. My daughter is in fourth grade at a school in San Bernardino, about three blocks from the Inland Regional Center.
Around 11 a.m., just after the shooting and before school lunchtime, the principal made an announcement on the loudspeaker, “Code Red lockdown, staff and teachers lock your doors.” The kids have drilled for this moment. Twice already this school year they practiced getting under their desks when the Code Red announcement sounds, just the way some of us growing up in California practiced duck-and-cover earthquake drills.
This time the students knew it wasn’t a drill, my daughter said, because the principal did not say it was drill like she usually does. The teacher locked the door and the students did what they have learned to do. They didn’t know about the shooting. My daughter said she thought maybe someone had gotten onto the school grounds without being fingerprinted as is required of all parent volunteers.
I asked her, “Was anyone crying? Were you all scared?”
She said at first some of the kids were laughing and happy that they did not have to do their classwork. They did not understand the seriousness of the situation. But after about an hour under their desks things started to shake up. My daughter said one of her friends was panicking, certain they were all going to die. Another kid just kept talking incessantly. Some started arguing. Others fell asleep.
“Was the teacher talking to the class?” I asked my daughter.
She said the teacher was hiding too and telling the kids to be quiet, telling them that their lives are more important than their arguments. The students were getting anxious and the principal made another announcement for everyone to remain in Code Red lockdown.
My daughter said she found a plastic knife leftover from their recent holiday feast and she held on it because she “wasn’t going down without a fight.” Her friend took her lead and grabbed a pair of kindergarten scissors.
No one was allowed to leave the classroom and one student had to pee. This, oddly enough, was one of my first worries when I learned the school was on lockdown—what if she has to go to the bathroom?
Meanwhile I was calling the school, trying to get information. All I could learn was that everyone was “safe” and the school was on lockdown until further notice.
I was worried about my daughter eating lunch, about her being terrified and confused. I was texting other parents, updating friends and relatives who were asking about us on Facebook.
An hour into the Code Red, my daughter said the class was allowed to eat their lunches. One of the school administrative staff members delivered hot lunches for those who usually eat from the school cafeteria. My daughter retrieved the lunch I had packed for her. She said she moved the cluster of desks around a bit so she could sit up a little straighter to eat—it was too difficult to eat crouching down.
After lunch the students were allowed to play on their laptop computers as long as they stayed under their desks. Finally, about an hour after the usual dismissal time, the class was sent to the cafeteria to wait for their rides home. An auto-dial recorded message notified me that I could now pick up my child.
Outside the classroom, walking to the cafeteria my daughter said the students started to understand that whatever was going on was a big deal. They saw two police cars outside the school gates and three helicopters circling overhead. Seeing that, my daughter said she thought someone with guns had gotten into the school. The students waited together in the cafeteria until one-by-one their parents arrived.
I rushed to pick her up, to hug her. The school was crowded with lines of cars, parents probably sharing the same distress. I didn’t want her to know that I was afraid, panicking. She seemed fine, although a bit addled.
Now that we are home together and I explained to her the news story, another mass shooting, my daughter says she does not feel traumatized. She is just tired and worn out. If she had known at the time, she says she probably would have been really scared.
I asked her, “Are you afraid to go back to school?”
She isn’t. She said that during a Code Red drill in second grade, she told her teacher that maybe everyone should just wear bulletproof suits. Two years later my daughter holds onto her teacher’s reply: “We can’t live our lives in fear.”
By Steven Arciniega
I’ve been extremely hesitant to say anything.
I could say things about the town I was born and raised in, yet still disliked for the bad yet true press its consistently received. I could Google crime rates or list important moments about the city or my life in it or I could write you an essay, about how bad things usually come full circle to a place where bad things happen, but I refuse.
I refuse because I’m exhausted.
I’m exhausted from the reports, the bomb threats, the shriek of sirens in all directions, at all hours, the constant one-overs of everyone I see heading in my direction, fearing they could be the next to do harm. I’m exhausted from the chatter of who’s to blame and what to do next or how this could have been prevented or what we should believe is the absolute truth. I still don’t know what to believe or what to do about it.
I could tell you of how I want to move away and shut everything out. I could tell you of how I don’t feel safe and how I don’t know how to get back to a reality where we all once were.
I could tell you all of this or I could tell you what I see and maybe, hopefully, that might make things better.
I see people going about life. I see smiles and joy at the smallest of moments that tie us together. I see life happening.
I write this because I want to, as hypocritical as it is and as I am, and even though I know I shouldn’t write it. I know this makes me like everyone else who’s opened their mouth in the past weeks.
I write this because it weighs on me, because I’ve called San Bernardino my home, my origin point, and felt guilty for disliking it all the while. I write this because I feel and feeling can be just as scary as it is exhilarating but that’s the thing; I want to feel. I want to live and love and share and experience. As scary and selfish as it is for those that can’t, I want it.
Speaking the silence
is the only way to walk the stillness.
Speaking your own words
without letting anyone else
shape them. That is the only
movement to stillness.
Today in the midst of chaos,
of grief, of sorrow
I speak of stillness
I speak my words
as if it is the only way to walk.
An IE Girl in Mourning
By Juanita E. Mantz ("JEM")
I am many things, especially an Inland Empire girl. It is in my blood. I was born in Great Falls, Montana but raised in Ontario and I live in unincorporated (outside city limits) San Bernardino. This was the hardest week since I moved home after my dad's death almost nine years ago. The week was filled with sadness and tragedy. Deaths and destruction. I am in mourning.
It is hard as a memoir writer not to make this deadly shooting about me. I was supposed to be at Inland Regional Center ("IRC") that day, but my hearing got continued. I represent people with developmental disabilities and I was reeling with shock when I got the news in court on December 2, 2015 at 11 am. Our deputy told us someone had shot a number of people at IRC. They are our sister agency and I work hand in hand with IRC's case workers to craft plans for clients in the criminal justice system. My first thought was, I hope all my clients are OK. Later, I found out that no clients were harmed nor any staff. The Department of Public Health (restaurant inspectors) of San Bernardino was having their holiday party and their ranks were decimated. So many people killed. Gone in an instant.
I left work early that day and cried all the way home listening to it all on the radio. When I got home, I stayed on the couch for hours watching the news. My husband came home early after he heard me crying on the phone and we sat together, our eyes glued to the television.
Everything was transpiring mere miles away and I kept thinking, is this really happening? I have a close friend who left San Bernardino's Public Health Department months ago and many of her friends are dead or injured. She could have been there but I am grateful she was not. It seems selfish to say that, but it's true. I am so happy she was home with her kids.
There is not much else I can say other than I am still reeling and my community is still reeling. The things that help are my writing and an ice cold Modelo with lime and salt, along with holding my husband's hand and petting my shih-tzus. There is something about the warmth of touch that comforts me. I am glad my Dad isn't here to see the world we live in. Maybe he is playing a game of cards in the heavens above, oblivious to all that is going on down below. For now, I know what people mean when they say hell is on earth, an earth filled with guns.
But, God only gives you what you can handle and offsets misery with miracles. Tonight, I attended the VONA writing workshop orientation. And, it was there that I saw speckles of light in the darkness, rays of light beckoning me to see the beauty in the world and in others and the possibilities that still exist.
In art, we find our better selves. And for me, that is enough for now. It has to be.
While We Americans Try To Live Again:
By Emily Anne Passic
You stand there at the podium,
With that Cheshire grin,
While we Americans try to live again.
Always on edge, always with
While We Americans Try To Live Again:
You stand there at the podium,
With that Cheshire grin,
While we Americans try to live again.
Always on edge, always with worry
Which of our fellow men will snap again?
You say we need more control,
Constrict our Constitutional rights,
While at the same time
Make us targets
For someone else to strike.
We are angry! We are sad! We are heartbroken!
We are tired!
Tired of fearing our safety,
Tired of fearing our neighbors,
Tired of fearing YOU.
We Americans are strong however
We have rebuilt before
We have fought back before
We can not be broken
Black White Brown. It don’t matter.
We will grab each others hands
For we are strength in numbers
We have love for our fellow brothers.
No, this won’t knock us down.
When those towers fell, we rose higher.
We took a hit, this is true.
But we threw our fists in the air, will you?
Ready to go, ready to fight.
They may have won this battle,
But we will win this war.
While you stand there
At your podium,
By what you are trying to take from us,
You won’t leave us vulnerable.
You will just add fuel to this fire.
God Bless San Bernardino,
This is our I.E! Our Country!
And as we recover, and get ready to fight,
Will you join us, or will you hide?
Hide behind your podium,
With that Cheshire grin,
While We Americans Try To Live Again.
San Bernardino Haze
By Chaun Ballard
written in my St. Louis & San Bernardino City dialect
god took dat san bernardino haze & gift wrap dah sun
like a round-dah-back pass from magic
ta us li’l brown boys playin’ ball innah shade
trynnah stay fresh like timmy hardaway
& his u-tep-two-step killer-crossover take a cat down innah paint & shoot a fade
splittin’ tyme on nem half-court-specials wit’ dem street michael jordans
sportin’ reeboks drinkin’ sprite insteadah gatorade
while random thugs wit’ aspirations of hoop-dreams
wud casually remove dah strap tuck’d between crotch & gut
ta conscientiously place it innah shade
so dat nickel wudn’t shine
like dah day vernon aim’d & cock’d mr. romos’ shotgun at my ches’
& dat shell jump’d outta its chambah echo’d off dah hardwood floo’
next ta dah reapah like: it wun’t my tyme—
& how kendrick did dah same ta himself
befo’ he start countin’ nah rest of his hoop-days in wheelchair years
back wen nem mexicans came bustin’ up our game of twenty-one
fo’ ounces of snow-white like we was seven dwarves—
where i caught my first whiff of weed smoke
cover’d my face ran home ta tell momma
dem boys drinkin’ forties
slappin’ bones onnat concrete bench
smokin’ drugs parkside
& how momma turn’d ta me in my innocence
she in her defeat
intoxicat’d off love’s betrayal:
papa in nem st. louis streets
undah dem project spells of high-yellah guhls like he twenty years old
callin’ every so oft’n ta tell momma he still trynnah sell off
dah remnants of our lives piece by piece
while we was livin’ our days between nah first & nah fifteenth
eatin’ blocks of govament cheese in several servings of grill-toast
stomach swellin’ like balloons from lactose intolerance like:
don’t dey know black folks can’t eat cheese?
wen we thought we was gold’n glove champs
runnin’ nah ‘partment complex wit’ mae-mae
chuggin’ raw egg & orange juice
makin’ championship belts out of cardboard & shoelace
connectin’ nem lefts & rights dat sent tommy dustin’ off his shirt three tymes
befo’ stoppin’ nah match—
where i work’d my first job & learn’d ta wash clothes
& saw my first sixteen-year-old tottin’ a gun
undah dah flickerin’ lights of basketball courts
where styrome pull’d out his twenty-two & hand’d me dah clip
like a taped confession of how he wud one day kill—
& dis he expos’d ta a ten-year-old half his size
where robert hampton thought he was jerry rice
& don-don kopel peezy—princes of dah hardwood flo’—was shot dead
& chris adams droppin’ dem double-doubles poppin nem pills wit’out prescriptions
had a stroke dat was deadlier den his jump shot—
where latoya’s struggle wit’ addiction finally came ta a halt
& she ascend’d midair like world b free
befo’ my dudes set-up shop
& dem white boys set-up dat sting op like a full-court press
ta give c-riss damien & nate-relle fifteen ta twenty-five—
wen i thought i wud see my first murdah-death-kill at gonzales community center:
cats innah middle of dah flo’ like a show at half-tyme
wavin’ nah barrel like a magic wan’ befo’ bitch-slappin’ dat poo’ kid
crazy wit’ dah butt of dah gun—
after i went off ta college
& dre&bunch went off ta prison ta mail letters like postmen
trapp’d innah belly of dah beast
wonderin’ wut life wud be like ta be free
befo’ j-moore left ta ball fo’ dem 9ers
& nece wit’ dem buccaneers
& uso trad’d innat green&gold fo’ dat raider black
befo’ tys join’d dem knicks & twane left dem nets
& ill-will became vintage like bottles of louie dah thirteenth
& cats start callin’ him smooth—
back wen big mel play’d on unlv wit’ grandmama
& nah fab five had us sportin’ black socks like we was michigan wolverines
& lou kelly wudn’t pass dah ball ta save his honey-dip’s life
& chris mcintyre rain’d treys all day onnah blacktop
like it was dah only gift god gave white boys—
& stocky bustin’ nah runnin’ man innah middle of dah court
like dah sun wudn’t go down
ball whizzin’ back&forth on a yo-yo string wit’ invisible thread—
demond’s big head
bob’s wet three
jb jumpin’ like sky captain innah world of tomorrow
cats like: he got helium in nem shoes!
comin’ back down after droppin’ deuce-five
ta a house wit’ no lights
no sun no moon
sittin’ innah bed gazin’ out dah window like:
we was stars
Send poetry, short essays, fiction, nonfiction, photography, drawing, sculpture, painting--whatever it is you manifested from your reaction to the recent tragedy in San Bernardino. We will continue to add work to this site so others can see it, read it, share it. Send submissions to jessica(AT)wildlemonproject(DOT)org