The Inland Regional Center complex in San Bernardino, the site of a terror attack last month that left 14 dead, reopened on Monday, just hours before a memorial for the shooting victims was expected to begin.
"As you can imagine, it has been a very difficult time for us and we're very glad to be back at our IRC home," facility executive director Lavinia Johnson told a cluster of reporters outside the center Monday morning.
On Dec. 2, the IRC hosted a training session and holiday party for San Bernardino County's Department of Public Health in one of its buildings when Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, an inspector with the department, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, began their shooting rampage. The pair were killed in a police shootout hours later.
Since the attack, the campus has remained closed.
The property was surrounded by fencing with security guards checking employee badges at each entrance Monday morning – a stark difference from the openness the campus enjoyed prior to the shooting. The building where the attack occurred remains closed and county officials have not determined what they'll do with it or if it will ever be reopened, Johnson said.
The regional center's 600 employees coordinate services for more than 30,000 clients with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
No patients will be visiting the center this week, Johnson said. Counselors were at the facility to speak with workers, she said.
"We can talk through it and we're here to support each other. We're a team," Johnson said.
Donaciano Meza, a program manager, said he and many others would be thinking of the victims of the shooting on their return, including Larry Daniel Kaufman, 42, who ran the coffee shop at IRC and was killed in the shooting.
Kaufman prepared coffee for IRC workers and trained some of its clients to be baristas, Meza said.
"All of our staff knew him," he said. "He was a very important part of our daily rituals...we will all miss him."
Kevin Urtz, the IRC's associate executive director, said he's been back at the center for about a week and was glad to see the others return.
"I'm happy we're trying to get a little bit back to normal," he said.
Leeza Hoyt, a spokeswoman for the regional center, said it distributed 350 iPads to employees in the days after the shooting, allowing them to access patient records and stay in touch with service providers to coordinate care remotely.
But Hoyt said being back together under the same roof will help employees do their work more effectively.
"They work in teams, and as you can imagine, they're all looking forward to getting back together with their team," she said. "There's a camaraderie that happens; there's a brainstorming function that happens."
As for the clients, she said, "I think knowing the building is again operating and open will give them a sense of comfort."
Later in the afternoon on the other side of the county, state leaders were expected to gather in Ontario for a memorial to the San Bernardino terrorist attack victims. Gov. Jerry Brown and state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris were among those slated to attend.
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