Notes from the President

December 2015
Special edition

Statement About San Bernardino Shooting

Though sense can never be made of last week’s mass shooting, we are still learning the reasons behind the attack — whether this was part personal vendetta, self-radicalization or a premeditated terrorist attack. What were the linkages and influence? Were others involved?

But from what we now know, it looks like yet another senseless tragedy guided by a twisted, bankrupt ideology masquerading as religious moralism.

The attack left 14 dead and 21 injured in San Bernardino, next door, our neighbor, a city just starting on the long road back from a decade of struggles.

This was so close that we heard the sirens and gunshots, received the wounded and are grieving with the families. Many of the victims, and perhaps even the perpetrators, walked our campus and enjoyed our fellowship. We will struggle for years to understand what can go so wrong in life to compel a couple to leave their 6-month-old daughter and carry out such carnage.

We do know that law enforcement acted bravely and quickly, combining forces from neighboring cities, counties and the FBI. The first responders walked into the face of unknown dangers. Communications worked, efforts were coordinated and justice was swift.

We also know our emergency department did what they are trained to do and do so well. They were ready for mass casualties and professionally cared for those they received. And our surgical teams performed with skill and sensitivity, followed by our staff on the wards adding their care and compassion. One of our own remains in the hospital as one of the victims.

After the immediate reaction of disbelief and concern, the follow-up questions begin. How did this happen? Could it have been predicted? Prevented? Is it over? What are the future risks? These are all questions that deserve, even demand answers. But it is also important that we guard against rumors, against broad recriminations and accusations. This is not a country or religion gone bad, but apparently a misguided attempt at retribution. Because these two had Pakistani Muslim roots does not implicate either their country or Islam, any more than other mass killers implicate our own heritage.

Jesus calls us to love one another as He loves us. In times of crises — crises that divide us about how to respond, crises that make a temptation of hating those who are different — we must remember His words: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

At Loma Linda University Health, we deeply value our multi-faith campus, providing a quality study and work environment for individuals from many different countries and religious persuasions. They stand with us in abhorring this type of attack, and they are a vital part of our faith-based culture.

The frequency of these events does raise serious questions about which way this country, this world, is heading. It seems evil is in the hearts of some men and women, and I wonder whether gun control, background screening, communication monitoring, no-fly lists or any other techniques can really slow down this trend. It seems to grow faster than counterforces can muster their defenses. It can easily leave those of us who believe in social commitments and service engagement with second thoughts. Is it worth it? Can we really make a difference?

I argue yes. At its heart, Loma Linda University Health is a place where we strive to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ. “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)

Loma Linda prepares for tragic events with routine drills and extensive planning. Whether it be an “active shooter,” chemical spill, explosion, multi-vehicle accident on the freeway or the “big one” (earthquake), we do our best to have systems in place and to be ready.

But there is a limit to what can be anticipated. We also recognize that our unique campus, with its own ideology, may represent a potential target itself. So we prepare and wait, not out of fear, but from a realistic expectation of the times in which we live.

We invite your prayers and support for all those impacted by this latest tragedy. Our hearts grieve with those who have lost loved ones. We believe we are here, in this very place, for times such as these, and we will carry out our duties with confidence and commitment. Our new San Bernardino campus is an example of our belief that we need to engage and be an active part of social healing.


Richard Hart, MD, DrPH
Loma Linda University Health

PS: Even as this message was being prepared, another bomb threat was called into Loma Linda, in addition to the false one we received last week. We searched all the buildings and received the all clear. It is yet another example of the times in which we live.