During the first anniversary of the Dec. 2 terrorist attack last year in San Bernardino, a Mass of Remembrance and Healing was celebrated at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery in nearby Colton. Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego presided at the liturgy held in the mausoleum’s All Souls Chapel with other priests.
“Our hearts are with the families of these heroes in San Bernardino,” said Msgr. Gerard Lopez, vicar general of the Diocese of San Bernardino, during his homily. “Our God is a god of life, not a god of death. … Unfortunately, as you know, death entered into the world through sin and human weakness. So we do have death. Through the victims of the attack, we recognize the reality of death which interrupts eternal life. But God wanted there always to be life.”
The stone crypts, forming the side walls, reached to the arched wood ceiling of the mausoleum. In front of the small altar was a table with 14 different size orange candles representing those killed in the attack. A 15th candle inside a wreath was for all victims of violence.
And through the windows behind the altar you could see in the distance the multifloor Inland Regional Center. That is where Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, gunned down Syed’s co-workers at a combined training session and early Christmas party.
Msgr. Lopez pointed out there were actually three kinds of death that happened on Dec. 2, 2015. “The first is the physical death that each of us is going through because of the fact that that is a part of life. … And so the physical death is the death that these 14 heroes have gone through. It is something that unites them. It was a tragic death that they underwent physically.”
The vicar general said the second kind of death is the tremendous sorrow and grief loved ones experience when a relative or friend dies.
“And the third kind of death is when nobody remembers you and morns when you have gone,” he said in a rising voice, adding, “And the third death is very sad when we do not remember those who died before us. When we’re forgotten.”
For the first two deaths, there’s not much anyone can do, Msgr. Lopez pointed out. People die and loved ones morn. “But the third death is something that we are dealing with today,” he said. “We will never forget these 14 men and women heroes or who they were and what they did and where they are now. Today’s Mass is a way in which we do not believe in the third kind of death. We will never let anyone be forgotten when they leave this world like they did.”
After Mass, a small bell installed in the back of the church was rung after each victim’s name was read: Larry Daniel Kaufman, Michael Wetzel, Tin Nguyen, Robert Adams, Shannon Johnson, Bennetta Betbadal, Nicholas Thalasinos, Damian Meins, Yvette Velasco, Aurora Godoy, Sierra Clayborn, Issac Amanios, Harry Bowman and Juan Espinoza.
An interfaith prayer vigil was also held for victims on Dec. 1. At the end of the service, a red rose was placed by a photo of each victim by relatives, loved ones or local seminarians.