We watch the breaking news on television, shaking our heads in disbelief at the terror. Yet, somehow most of us mentally stay at arm’s length. We think, “That could never happen here.” Except when it hits nearby, or near someone we know.
Two friends of mine had flown to Paris for a getaway on the weekend of the terrorist attacks in that city, and they will never forget the feeling of horror that permeated Paris and all of France.
Through text messages and social networking they let friends know they were okay, and they made it home safely. Even though the violence happened far away, when someone you know is in the area and you worry that they may have been involved. That makes things different. That pulls it in from arm’s length. It makes it very real.
And then comes news of a mass shooting in San Bernardino, sixty miles east of Los Angeles. It took place just a few minutes from Loma Linda, a place I consider my home away from home, where I have spent considerable time and have friends. While I was there, having proton treatment for prostate cancer at Loma Linda Universty Medical Center, I lived in a duplex near the hospital and would watch helicopters landing near the emergency room entrance. This week, I heard on the news that several victims of the shooting were taken to Loma Linda. After the violence in San Bernardino subsided, police reported that suspects had fled to Redlands, a nearby city just ten minutes up Interstate 10. The suspects would have passed through, or skirted, Loma Linda to get to Redlands .
At a home in a quiet residential area there was a shootout between suspects and police. Two suspects were killed. Wait a minute. A shootout in Redlands? C’mon, this is one of the more peaceful, sophisticated small towns in America. This is not the OK Corral in Tombstone. A shootout? Could such a thing happen in Redlands, a town of 70,000 people, surrounded by citrus groves, the town where my daughter bought a skateboard, where we had dinner at Clara’s Restaurant, the town where one summer at the college stadium, we saw the most brilliant July 4th fireworks display, the town with free downtown parking, the place that is the picture perfect American town? A shootout? If it could happen in Redlends . . . it could happen anywhere.