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San Bernardino shooting vigil: Victim was ‘Superman,’ friends say

Cal State University San Bernardino alumnus Brian Walker was back on campus with his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers. How many, he couldn’t tell at the time. His eyes were wet. The group was not complete.

Walker and about 60 fraternity brothers, including alumni and active members, reunited at a vigil Monday night to mourn the loss of a brother and good friend, Mike Wetzel, one of the victims of last week’s deadly attack in San Bernardino. More than 1,000 students, alumni and community members attended.

Back in their college days in the late ‘90s, Walker had recruited Wetzel for the fraternity and teasingly given him the nickname Clark Kent. He looked the part with his glasses, plus “he was pretty super,” Walker said. The name stuck, as have the memories.

FULL COVERAGE: Terror attack in San Bernardino >>

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“He gave everything he could. Friendliest, nicest, smartest guy,” Walker said, then paused to gather himself. “He was the ultimate kind of guy. He was Superman.”

The tragedy resonated deeply at this university, where five of the victims and one of the shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook, had attended.

“We are here tonight because sorrow shared is almost always better than facing sorrow in solitude,” said University President Tomás D. Morales, one of nearly a dozen campus officials and religious leaders who spoke.

The crowd later turned to a nearby clock tower, where bells rang 14 times – once for each of those killed in the attack. This was the most emotional part for Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brother and CSUSB student Neal Hannon, 20.

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“Hearing all 14 bells, it got harder and harder,” Hannon said.

As the ceremony neared the end, student leaders began lighting white candles that were distributed among the crowd.

A student performer sang “Imagine” and “Let It Be,” with some joining in, holding candles that glowed in the darkness.

Shelby Swank, a CSUSB alumna who lives and works in San Bernardino, said she came to show her support for the community. Swank, 25, said the city has faced more than its fair share of problems, but for many like herself, it will always be home.

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“A lot of people say they’re going to leave San Bernardino, and then they don’t ever leave,” Swank said.

That’s because she and her fellow community members believe in the city’s potential, she said, which reminded her of another sanguine person.

“I feel like we’re the Leslie Knope of San Bernardino,” she said with a grin. “Leslie Knope of ‘Parks and Rec’ has so much hope for her city, and I think that’s why we stay because we know that eventually it’s going to come back off the ground. It’s just a matter of time.”

For breaking California news, follow @taygoldenstein.

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