STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, it was one year ago today that a husband and wife entered a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., and opened fire, killing 14 people, injuring another 22. It would later be called the worst act of terrorism in the United States since 9/11. One year later, federal investigators are still looking into this attack, the two shooters and their motives. But in San Bernardino and the surrounding areas, people are trying to move on, as NPR's Nathan Rott reports.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Sally Cardinale and Ray Britain sit down and remember the day they want to forget.
SALLY CARDINALE: I was in the restroom.
RAY BRITAIN: I was in the room.
CARDINALE: And I was washing my hands when I heard the first gunshots.
BRITAIN: We heard three to six loud bangs.
ROTT: But before they go any further...
CARDINALE: I'm sorry. Let me - can I put - pause? Did you want to...
ROTT: Cardinale looks down the table at another woman, another survivor who is clearly distraught.
CARDINALE: Do you want to be here for this? Is it too hard?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's OK.
ROTT: Cardinale pauses, gathers her thoughts and continues.
ROTT: The people that were there at the shooting last December are protective of each other like this. They know how reliving moments of that day can trigger the trauma of it all. For Cardinale, it's thinking about that bathroom in the Inland Regional Center.
CARDINALE: Everything I was thinking about when I was in that bathroom was I'm going to die and my kids are going to get separated because they have different fathers, and they're never going to see each other again, and I don't know what to do with that.
ROTT: For Britain, it's the little details that he remembers, the floor vibrating with each shot like an earthquake, the shock on his co-workers' faces, the shell casings.
BRITAIN: Just a rainbow of shell casings floating to the ground.
ROTT: Things he wants to forget but can't.
BRITAIN: The dreams keep a lot of it real.
ROTT: Britain and Cardinale are part of a larger group of survivors who are trying to get better from physical injuries and emotional trauma, a task they say made harder every time they see the shooters' faces in the news.
CARDINALE: We all know who the shooters were.
ROTT: Syed Rizwan Farook was a co-worker. He and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were killed in a gun battle with police. But the investigation into them is ongoing. There's also a trial pending against Enrique Marquez Jr., a friend who prosecutors say, among other things, helped provide materials for the plot. Another challenge for the survivors is an ongoing dispute with the county of San Bernardino. Cardinale and Britain say that treatments like counselling sessions, antidepressant medications and even surgeries aren't being approved by their workers' compensation program. The county, in an email, says it's doing all it can. But the dispute is just another impediment keeping people in the city of San Bernardino itself from moving forward.
PETE AGUILAR: I used to tell people my district was halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
ROTT: Pete Aguilar is the U.S. representative for the district that includes San Bernardino.
AGUILAR: After December 2, I could just tell people that I was from San Bernardino.
ROTT: And that was enough. People knew, like they do for Littleton or Newtown. Aguilar, though, is defiant.
AGUILAR: We will not be defined by this tragedy.
ROTT: San Bernardino, by Aguilar's admission, is a work in progress. The city is facing severe economic problems and rising crime rates, troubles that plagued the town long before the attack. And that's where Brian Levin sees hope.
BRIAN LEVIN: We're a better community now even though we're hurt.
ROTT: Levin is a professor of criminal justice at Cal State University, San Bernardino. He's friends with the families of some of the victims and works with the community's faith leaders. And he says the attack brought all of them together at memorials and community meetings in a unity of shock and shared pain.
LEVIN: It will always be a part of our history. But here's the thing - so will the heroics of those police officers and first responders and medical staff and the grace of the families.
ROTT: Levin says that's what people should focus on this anniversary and in the others to follow. Nathan Rott, NPR News, San Bernardino.
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