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San Bernardino mourns its dead, calls for unity, not rancor

Tami Abdollah

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – At a church, a mosque, a makeshift street-corner memorial and other sites, they gathered Sunday to mourn the 14 victims of the San Bernardino massacre and lament that the community has now been added to the tragic list of U.S. cities scarred by terrible violence.

Residents struggled to come to terms with the violence and hoped the community would unite in mourning and not be divided by the disclosure that the killers were a religious Muslim couple.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re on this list now, a list like Newtown, Aurora and others where such tragic events occurred,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., told a crowd at a mosque. “It’s not how I want San Bernardino remembered.”

Investigators were looking into what led Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook to attack the gathering of Farook’s co-workers on Wednesday. Authorities were trying to determine if Malik, who was born in Pakistan and spent considerable time in Saudi Arabia, radicalized her American-born husband, Farook, and was the driving force behind the rampage, two officials said Sunday.

That possibility emerged late last week when it was disclosed that Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a Facebook post about the time of the bloodbath at a holiday luncheon. Malik, 29, and Farook, 28, were killed in a furious shootout with police hours after the attack.

On Sunday, scores of mourners, including members of the Muslim community, visited a growing memorial on a corner near the social service center where the shooting took place. There were American flags, a poster that read “Pray for the world,” balloons, candles and cards. Many said they hoped the community would pull together.

At the St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, where shooting victim Yvette Velasco worshipped, the service focused on the need to get beyond the anger. Many parishioners said they would reach deep into their faith to find some way to forgive.

More than 100 people gathered for an interfaith memorial service at a mosque where Farook had occasionally prayed. Silver-framed photos of the victims were placed on a table at the Islamic Community Center of Redlands, with a candle lit for each.

Muslim community members said they are feeling both grief over the loss and fear of a backlash against their community. They encouraged community members to come together and not live in fear.

Many in the crowd wrote personal notes to the victims’ families that the mosque will deliver.

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