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Monday, January 24, 2022

Memorial to the victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attack conceived as a place of memory, hope

It’s been six years since the 2015 San Bernardino terror attack.

“I feel like I’m drowning in a glass of water,” said Sandra Espinoza, the wife of Juan Espinoza, one of 14 people killed that day, each leading up to the anniversary. “And as this day ends, I feel like I can breathe again.”

On December 2, 2015, employees of the San Bernardino County Environmental Health Service were in an off-site training program at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino when a coworker and his wife opened fire on them in a living room. In addition to the 14 killed, 22 were injured. Later, both the shooters were killed in an encounter with the police.

On the sixth anniversary of the attack, the first glance of the public fell on the memorial of the victims.

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“Today even after six years sitting here brings tears to my eyes. It never stops,” said Arlene Verdehou, husband of Beneta Betbadal. “His name comes up, his picture pops up, tears well up in my eyes. He’s still in my heart.”

Espinoza said that united by a shared tragedy, the families of the victims have now forged their own bonds.

“It’s like a family. We get together once, twice, thrice a year.” “I look forward to (those days). It’s sad, it’s a little bitter. We all get to see.”

An exhibit opens Thursday at the San Bernardino County Museum. This “Curtain of Courage” displays a model of the monument, a rendering of the project, a timeline of the monument’s development, and a look at the process by Oakland-based designer Walter Hood. The exhibition runs until 19 December.

“This will be the first memorial project that we have done specifically as a memorial. It was quite a heavy burden,” Hood said, speaking from Oakland via Zoom.

The memorial is the result of years of work by a committee made up of county staff, survivors of the attack and family members including Verdehou. The committee spoke to 85 artists from around the world interested in designing the monument. In September 2020, the committee selected the internationally renowned landscape architect and designer Hood, who also designed the Broad Museum Plaza in downtown Los Angeles.

When finished, the Curtain of Courage Memorial will be on the eastern side of the county government building on North Arrowhead Avenue in San Bernardino. The final concept features curved mesh panels made of bronze and steel. Hood said the curtain is designed to evoke protective gear, with chain layers resembling a bulletproof vest.

The curves of the curtains form 14 alcoves, one for each of those killed in the shooting. The alcoves will feature a panel of stained glass in a shed chosen by the family members of the victims. A phrase chosen by family members will be inscribed on a bench in each alcove. And inside each bench, invisible to the public, will be a small gift chosen by the family.

An information plaque nearby will describe the events of December 2, 2015 in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

“From this point in December begins another year,” said Espinoza, for which every detail of that day is burned into his memory. “But it is what it is.”

Hood wants the memorial to be a place of remembrance, but also of hope.

“Hopefully it works on many levels,” he said.

The $1.3 million memorial is on track to open to the public in March or April. A specific date has not yet been set.

The 2 December exhibition runs until 19 December. The museum is at 2024 Orange Tree Lane in Redlands. It’s open Sunday through Sunday, with general admission $10 for adults, $8 for members of the military or seniors, $7 for students and children ages 5 to 12, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is $5 for. Children under 5 and members of the Museum Association are free.

Info: 909-798-8608 or SBCounty.gov/museum

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