This is a view of the San Bernardino valley from the east (Highland foothills) looking toward the west. I took this several years ago when I was out visiting my family. The valley is beautiful; I could always imagine the first settlers coming to valley and deciding to stay. For us modern-day folks, the mountains are nestled close, the desert is an hour away, and the beach is about two hours west with traffic.
I grew up next door to San Bernardino. My first “real” job was for the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper. I represented the county in a civic organization in college. That’s where the mall was. That’s where our church was. Most of my friends lived there. Many still do.
I never thought I’d hear the Today Show live from San Bernardino; the city mentioned in the same sentence as Paris, France; or that the president would visit. A gang shooting? A disgruntled worker? A drug deal gone bad? Yes, those I would have believed. But not terrorism.
Back in the 70s, San Bernardino was an All-America city. I would see the sign from the freeway every time we drove downtown. Curious about what that meant now, I went to (where else?) Wikipedia and found that “the All-America City Award is given by the National Civic League annually to ten communities in the United States. It recognizes those whose citizens work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results. Winners can be neighborhoods, towns, villages, cities, counties, or regions. It is the oldest community recognition program in the nation.” San Bernardino won the award in 1976-1977.
Doesn’t sound like a place where you’d expect a terrorist act to be committed 38 years later, does it? What changed? What happened?
I haven’t lived in California since 2003, and I haven’t lived in the Inland Empire (San Bernardino, Redlands, Highland, Riverside, etc.) since 1993. The area has declined from the time I lived there; friends have moved out, and areas that were perfectly safe when I was in high school are dangerous now. Some of it is a result of Norton Air Force Base being closed in 1994, taking away a major source of jobs.
Two years ago, on a trip visiting my family in California, I took my husband on a tour of all the places I lived and frequented as a kid. When my family heard where all we were going, we were warned away from some of the places. It made me sad in that way that happens when you visit a place that had memories for you, only to find it has changed when you return.
Needless to say, I found the events surrounding the terrorist shooting and subsequent events to be surreal. Watching live streaming coverage from the KNBC website, I saw familiar streets—places close to where I used to work. I heard reports from friends still living in the area about their experiences that day. None of us had any words to explain, to wrap reason around the unreasonable. Predictable lives instantly became unpredictable.
No matter the economic, political, or religious justifications for evil, the ultimate source of all of it is our own hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (NASB). No law can change a heart or make it well or make it whole.
The only cure for what ails our world is what we celebrate this season. The birth of a Savior, the only One who can save us from ourselves. So while we can’t fathom why people do what they do or control our future, we can place our trust, our fears, our futures in the One who holds it all perfectly and Who will someday make everything right. He is the only solution to our heart problem.