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The Place We Have Lost

Before the horrific attack in San Bernardino, the Inland Regional Center was an institutional leader and safe space for people with developmental disabilities.

Image via Inland Regional Center / InlandRC.org

Again.


It’s happened again.

This time it’s San Bernardino, California, where gunmen—now identified as Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik—burst into the Inland Regional Center, killing at last 14, and injuring 17 more. The attack, ranking among the deadliest mass shootings this country has experienced, has once again raised questions around gun control, mental health, terrorism, and whether Americans should resign themselves to accept these increasingly common tragedies as “the new normal.”

While the motive for the shooting remains unclear at this time, what we do know is that the violence at the Inland Regional Center took place in—and robbed the innocence of—a facility dedicated to helping some of the most vulnerable among us: those with developmental disabilities.

The Inland Regional Center was created out of California’s Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Service Act, a law that detailed the rights and resources available to people with developmental disabilities, as well as for those who live with them. Since first opening its doors in 1972, the Inland Regional Center has grown from a moderately sized facility, with nine employees serving just over a hundred clients, to one of the largest service providers of its sort in the region, with a staff of more than 650 who work with up to 30,000 clients across Southern California.

On its website, the IRC explains itself and its mission:

As an agency among agencies, Inland Regional Center coordinates with generic services to enhance the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families by working to include them in the everyday routines and life rhythms of the community.”

To that end, the center predicates its work on the three core values: independence, inclusion, and empowerment.

The day before the San Bernardino shootings, those values were on full display at the center’s holiday party. Images posted to the IRC’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are full of singing, dancing revelers, some posing with Santa Claus, others grooving to Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration.”

Image via Inland Regional Center / Facebook

The attack took place as the center reportedly was hosting an event for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, for which suspect Farook is believed to have worked.

It remains to be seen how the IRC plans to move ahead after the violence. At this time, its website has not been updated since the shooting, still advertising an upcoming holiday dance, complete with an “ugly sweater” contest. It’s a small example of what the Inland Regional Center means to the thousands who depend on it for resources, support, and the promise of a safe space.

It’s a reminder of the place we have lost.