This is what I want you to know about San Bernardino. This is what the media isn’t talking about.
Photo Credit: Micah Escamilla via The Sun Newspaper
San Bernardino was one of the hardest hit cities in the United States during the recession and still has not recovered. I write about the economy for a good portion of my living. I know too well how SB ends up on so many of the worst lists. Here is just one example.
“The recession of 2008 struck the city hard and hasn’t let up; San Bernardino was forced into bankruptcy in 2012, and it still hasn’t recovered. On the law enforcement side, draconian budgets forced most of the city’s police force off the job, with entirely predictable results.”
It’s listed as one of the worst cities to live in the United States in 2015 in the link above, but what is notable in this list is the fact that the police department has been doing the best they can on a shoestring for several years.
San Bernardino is rife with crime and a hard place that a lot of good people are determined to make better. Some of these people head nonprofits. I have interviewed many of them and written about their organizations over the last few years in a weekly column in Press Enterprise. (I know. I write about a lot of things. Girl’s gotta make a living.)
My favorite interview, perhaps was with A Fighting Chance, an organization in SB giving inner city kids a chance to be champions in the ring so they didn’t need to try to be one on the streets. I was a boxer in my youth and I know what that kind of disciplined training requires and what kind of anger and despair it extinguishes. Ian Franklin, the president and CEO of this organization talked to me about these hardscrabble kids:
“Everyone who comes through the door wants to be a champion and we have kids who have realized their dreams, but there is a lot of hard work and dedication that is involved in any dream,” Franklin said. “Whether you want to be a doctor or a boxer, you have to roll up your sleeves and work hard for it.”
This, to me, is San Bernardino.
And nobody told you this about San Bernardino when you watched the Chief of Police deftly handle this horrible situation, but SBPD is just like these kids. They roll up their sleeves and despite that fact that times are hard and they are short on staff, they fight. They fight for their community, which is rough and dangerous and sometimes seems hopeless. If you want a deeper picture, then read Joe Monzingo’s story in the Los Angeles Times about one of the most broken cities in the United States. San Berdoo can be, often is, heartbreaking.
A yet here in this broken place, the last place you would think an act of terrorism would even be worth the effort, we just found harder times, but we also found heroes.
I hope you watched Lt. Mike Madden in the press conference tonight. He was the first officer on the scene and told a story I’ve never heard the police tell the national public. In charge of dispatch and records, he does mostly paperwork now. I imagine his family is relieved that after years of service he is out of harm’s way these days. But his wife probably shoved him — and then hugged him when he came home last night.
Madden heard the tension and confirmation of a true major casualty situation in his dispatchers’ voices and as a highly trained veteran officer and closest to the scene, he was there first and managed the entry.
It is an unsettling, but true story with excruciatingly difficult details about walking into carnage while remaining determined to save human lives. But stories… true stories… real stories… they can change the world.
San Bernardino PD acted as and were world-class level responders in a poor city that is barely supporting their police department. They did what the best heroes do. They faced the situation they never imagined with fierce determination and called in every partner who was willing and able to back them. And the surrounding city authorities were immediately there to back them.
San Bernardino answered their hero’s “call to action” and never looked back. And considering the odds and the insane situation they were faced with, I can’t believe how efficiently and professionally they made their city and the surrounding cities safe and in such an astoundingly short period of time.
I’m telling you this because it isn’t a fantasy novel, although it’s an outstanding example of a real-life hero’s journey and because that is what hope in the face of the impossible looks like. San Bernardino never believed they were in ashes. They were always rising. Embrace their hope. Let’s all rise with them.
I’ve felt wrung out the last two days. There is so much loss in my community. So much pain that isn’t even mine, but I still can’t look past. And so much broken that will never be made whole. I don’t know how to make this better.
But I do believe in San Bernardino PD and I believe in San Bernardino. I guess it’s a small jump to believe in myself too.
And so, when we are tired of arguing about how we are certain that our way (whatever that way is) is the only way fix this horrible cycle of violence the United States, I hope we can pause and talk calmly and figure out how to be #SBStrong.
I hope we’ll figure out how to fix it together.