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San Bernardino County worker on losing 3 friends: ‘They’re not there and they won’t be’

The idea of returning to work — of walking past her friends’ desks that will now have to be cleaned out — makes Jenni Kosse feel numb.

For the 50-year-old environmental health worker with San Bernardino County, the nightmare began midday Wednesday as she heard reports of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center. She knew her colleague and longtime friend, Robert Adams, had spent the morning at the center for a meeting.

“Are you OK?” she texted him. She heard nothing back.

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By Wednesday night, Adams’ wife, Summer, had posted a message on Facebook saying she was “fairly certain” that he’d been shot to death.

She texted Kosse, bewildered: “Is he really gone?”

“I am so sorry,” Kosse responded, “but yes.”

As an environmental health specialist with San Bernardino County, Adams often inspected pools and food facilities during the construction phase.

Adams, 40, and his wife grew up in the Inland Empire and were high school sweethearts, Kosse said. They had tried to have kids for some time, and he adored their 20-month-old daughter, Savannah. He loved taking her to the park and uploaded new pictures of her to Facebook almost every night.

“When you saw the three of them together,” Kosse said, whimpering, “you just wanted to jump in the middle and think, ‘I want to have fun too.’”

Adams always looked out for others, she said. She has diabetes, and he’d bring her orange juice on days that she didn’t look well.

He could sense when someone was angry or frustrated. He’d smile at them and ask, “How can I help you?” Almost always, Kosse said, the person’s anger would melt away.

Adams — who wore bright ties and sported a goatee — also spent time helping his parents, who donate doves to Inland Empire families who have lost a loved one, Kosse said. They give them away for free, so families can release them at ceremonies.

“To be supportive,” she said, her voice quivering.

By Thursday afternoon, a fundraising page set up by a group of the widow’s friends, who said they were struggling to “make sense of what makes NO sense,” had raised more than $5,000 for her and the couple’s young daughter.

As Kosse struggled to comprehend Adams’ death, the heartbreak deepened.

At 11 p.m. Wednesday, she got a call from another friend, Jennifer Thalasinos, saying her husband, Nicholas, was gone.

The couple was like a second family to her, Kosse said, and when she was having a rough day at work, she’d walk up to Nicholas — who loved to wear fedora hats — and say, “I need a hug.”

He’d smile and embrace her.

The two deaths, as well as the loss of Mike Wetzel, whom she’s known since high school, left her devastated.

“I just keep going through it my head and picturing where they’re supposed to be — at their desks,” she said. “They’re not there and they won’t be.”

For more news, follow @marisagerber.

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