When I first learned of the attack in San Bernardino, Calif., I was instantly worried for the seniors and people living with disabilities who were in the building seeking assistance with their care and services. I also thought back to other tragedies—Columbine, Sandy Hook, Ferguson—when we hoped and prayed these senseless attacks were isolated events. Now, we can barely get over the shock and pain of one before we learn of more men, women and children who have fallen to gun violence.
But this one didn’t just hit close to home—it hit us in our home. Of the 14 innocent lives lost, 10 were members of SEIU Local 721. This wasn’t just someone else’s son or loving partner, neighbor or co-worker. These were members of our family, our SEIU brothers and sisters, who died or were injured, and a whole community left afraid, sad and scarred. These women and men left for work like any other day, making sure community sites where families eat are clean and safe. Little did they know their goodbye kiss that morning would be their last.
As a former public health nurse, I wanted to help. However, this wasn’t an instance where I could correct or prevent a disease. Instead, I joined SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry, nurse colleagues, and other SEIU members and leaders to meet with our Local 721 brothers and sisters and extend our hand. We wanted them to know their hurt was our hurt, and they were not alone.
We joined more than 1,000 co-workers, loved ones, elected and spiritual leaders at a candlelight vigil to stand in solidarity and be the light in the midst of unspeakable loss for families and our nation. President Henry inspired us to recommit to care for each other in our own families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and to act out of love that we are all each other’s brothers and sisters.
She also called upon each of us to use our individual and collective power to demand action of elected leaders at every level to build a better future. We must do whatever we can to keep our communities safe. To me, it’s a way to find hope in a hopeless situation and the best way to honor all who are suffering from this tragedy.
SEIU members can support families of our fallen and injured brothers and sisters with contributions at: http://action.seiu.org/