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A man’s journey to his wife after finding out she’s the victim of a mass shooting

Ernesto Vasquez hangs an American flag at a memorial near the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Friday. The FBI has officially labeled the attack carried out by Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, as an act of terrorism.

Ernesto Vasquez hangs an American flag at a memorial near the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Friday. The FBI has officially labeled the attack carried out by Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, as an act of terrorism.

(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Every morning, Salihin Kondoker talks to his wife, Anies, on the phone. He works four days a week in San Francisco and likes to check in.

On Wednesday, he called her just after 11 a.m., but she didn’t pick up. She usually returns his call if she misses it. This time, she didn’t.

Kondoker used a GPS locator to track her phone, and saw that it was at a county building where she often has meetings as an environmental health specialist for the county of San Bernardino.

Kondoker didn’t think much of the ignored call, until he saw a news alert on his phone: a mass shooting in San Bernardino.

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“When I read that, I completely panicked. I think I became paralyzed,” he said.

The couple lives in San Bernardino and has been married 17 years. They have three kids -- ages 3, 13 and 16.

He spent the next hour frantically looking for more news, anything that would help him figure out where his wife was. “Keep on updating, keep on reading, keep on reading,” he said.

As more information was released -- he remembers reading about shooters targeting “county health workers” -- he became more worried.

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At 1 p.m., he received a call from a doctor, who told him that though Anies, 42, had been shot three times, she would survive. Relief washed over him.

He immediately booked a flight and boarded a plane from Oakland to Ontario at 5 p.m. He wanted to be beside his wife as soon as possible. While waiting for his friend to pick him up at the airport, he struck up a conversation with two police officers.

When he told them about his situation, “a police officer offered to take me to the hospital.”

The couple was reunited at the hospital. She had been shot in the right arm, the left arm and in the stomach. She is expected to recover from all her injuries.

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She had been walking from the bathroom into the meeting room, when “bullets started flying,” Salihin Kondoker recounts.

“Two bullets flew over her head, missed her head,” he said.

He said that she was shocked to learn from him the identity of the shooter: Anies’ shy, quiet colleague Syed Rizwan Farook. He attended the mosque where the Kondokers prayed.

Salihin Kondoker said his wife, who was released from the hospital Thursday night, has been struggling to grapple with the death of the other victims, all of whom were her co-workers, her close friends.

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“She’s recovering very well, but still going through emotional trauma,” he said.

Her mind races with thoughts of returning to work. Most painful is the thought of being there without her best friend, Tin Nguyen, who was killed.

She “keeps on thinking, how is she going to see the office, the empty office, empty cubicles?” Salihin Kondoker said. She plans to take time off work, he said.

On Friday, Salihin said he was feeling better, coping with how close he was to losing Anies.

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“I think we are recovering,” he said.

Twitter: @skarlamangla

soumya.karlamangla.com

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