Workers to return to site of San Bernardino attack

In this Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, photo, the Inland Regional Center's executive director, Lavinia Johnson, pauses for a moment during an interview with The Associated Press on the campus of the regional center where the attack on Dec. 2 took place in San Bernardino, Calif. Photo: CBS News

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — In the offices of the Inland Regional Center, Christmas did not come.

Tinsel still festoons cubicles. A small tree with presents sits undisturbed. A sign-up sheet to bring in food remains empty of names.

The staff was still gearing up for the holidays on Dec. 2, the day 14 people were massacred on the center’s gleaming campus.

Few of its 600 employees have gone to the office since, other than a brief visit to gather personal belongings a week after the attack.

On Monday, they return.

Amid the investigation and cleanup, the campus has been locked behind a chain link fence wrapped in green mesh. Within that perimeter, in one corner, is a second fence.

It seals the conference center that San Bernardino County’s health department was renting for a holiday luncheon when the two attackers began their assault. A county restaurant inspector targeting his co-workers was joined by his wife in killing 14 and injuring dozens.

The conference building will not reopen Monday, and it’s not clear when it might.

For now, the act of reuniting elsewhere on campus will be a huge step forward for Inland Regional Center staff. They miss the friendly faces, the hallway chit chat. They yearn to renew a sense of stability at an institution unmoored by violence.

“That’s what I’m hearing from them: ‘We want to be together again. We want to be back at work,'” said Lavinia Johnson, the center’s executive director.

Sitting for an interview with the Associated Press in a tidy courtyard shaded by two of the center’s large, red stone buildings, Johnson and associate executive director Kevin Urtz reflected on the reopening. Johnson apologized for tree debris that has collected in the absence of caretakers. Several Japanese maples still clung to the last of their red leaves.

The plan for Monday morning is, after a welcome and some food in the lounges, to do what social workers and counselors do best — sit and talk.

“Just be together again,” Johnson said, “share where they’re at.”

After that, it’s back to work. Professional counselors will be available for employees who want them.

“Our goal is to help people help themselves. And that’s pretty much the same strategy that we want to take with our staff,” Urtz said. “You know, help them through this.”

Both have worked more than 25 years at the Inland Regional Center, which with nearly 31,000 disabled clients in the working-class sprawl east of Los Angeles is the largest of 21 in California. It is a vital community resource in a place where about one-third of households live below the poverty line.

Johnson and Urtz expect staff to be resilient, in the spirit of the #SBStrong phrase that has become a community rallying cry. They thanked law enforcement and expressed condolences for the families of the slain.

While people want to move ahead, Urtz doesn’t expect ever to put that day behind fully.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to just, you know,” he said, with his voice trailing off. “No, it’s too big.”

At the same time, with strengthened security, both said they are confident that the site is safe. After all, center employees or clients were not the focus of the attackers, whom the FBI says were motivated by radical Islamist beliefs.

Last week, Johnson was preparing for the reopening when she stopped by her office.

While there, she put away her Christmas decorations. And she thought how, this year, she didn’t get to enjoy them.

Last month, CBS News spoke to a woman who spent her life counseling survivors of tragedy, and became a survivor herself in San Bernardino.

Angelika Robinson has helped others in their worst moments, like after the Columbine shooting.

“There is something that is so profoundly important about being with someone in the most horrific time of their life,” Robinson said.

But on a routine morning at the Inland Regional Center, Robinson found herself at the center of tragedy.

“I had just finished my first assessment for the day. I heard gunshots. Several people yelled ‘they’re shooting at everybody. I saw the reaction on people’s faces, and the horror,” Robinson recalled.

Robinson said she immediately tried to calm others, especially when SWAT officers burst in.

“Their weapons are pointed away from us, and that means that they’re the good guys and they’re protecting us,” Robinson said.

But when they were brought outside, and saw the dead and wounded, Robinson said “It was horrifying. It was absolutely horrifying.”

Robinson convinced herself she was fine, until she wasn’t.

“I think my entire family noticed a change in me,” she said. “I was panicked and I was jumpy. And I was irritable.”

But the crisis counselor couldn’t diagnose herself.

“I had to hear that from someone else, for me to be able to accept that I was traumatized,” Robinson said. “Just because we don’t have the physical wound — we all got injured.”

A federal grand jury indictment announced last week avoids the need for a hearing before a judge to determine whether 24-year-old Enrique Marquez should stand trial.

Authorities say the friend of one of the shooters in the San Bernardino massacre has been indicted on charges that include conspiring in a pair of previous planned attacks and making false statements when he bought the guns later used in this month’s shootings.

The charges include conspiring with shooter Syed Rizwan Farook to carry out attacks on a Southern California college and freeway in 2011 and 2012. They later abandoned their alleged plans.

Marquez, 24, is also charged with two counts for saying two assault rifles he later gave to Farook were only for himself or his immediate family.

Two other counts accuse him of immigration fraud for a sham marriage.

Marquez did not enter a plea when he appeared in court Dec. 21. U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bristow ordered Marquez held without bail until a hearing on Monday.

“The defendant actively conspired with the decedent Mr. Farook for purposes of participating in a terrorist act in this nation,” Bristow said during that court appearance, adding that Marquez also obtained smokeless powder that Farook used to create improvised explosive devices.

“The grave threat presented to the community by that conspiracy was demonstrated on Dec. 2 when Mr. Farook and his wife committed a terrorist act on the Inland Regional Center…. He continues to present that danger to the community,” Bristow said.

Marquez faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

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