On the morning of Dec. 2, Yvette Velasco got dressed up and flat-ironed her hair for an important day: The 27-year-old was going to receive the gold badge officially recognizing her as a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health inspector at a holiday work event.
The world now knows what happened: Co-worker Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik stormed into the gathering and opened fire on his colleagues. As a result, Velasco and 13 others were killed in what the FBI is investigating as an act of terrorism.
On Thursday one week and a day after the massacre, Velasco will be remembered in an outdoor funeral ceremony. The ceremony will mark the start of a grim procession expected to take place throughout Southern California over the next week with about a dozen memorial services, funerals and burials for those killed in the attack.
Velasco’s sister Erica Porteous said that for the tight-knit Velasco family, the last week has felt like “a living nightmare.” None of them knew Yvette was expecting to be at the Inland Regional Center that morning.
The only hint they had she was at a work gathering came from a Snapchat she sent her sister Adriana Velasco. The message had a photo of her hand wrapped around a Starbucks cup and a few words mentioning a holiday party.
Less than an hour later, Yvette Velasco’s relatives started hearing reports of a shooting in San Bernardino. Porteous turned on the television and realized the building under siege was often used for county meetings and she sent a text message to a friend, asking if she knew which department was gathering there that day.
The reply read “environmental health” which immediately sparked concern since Velasco had just recently passed the exam to become a state registered environmental health specialist. When the family learned it was Velasco’s department meeting at the Inland Regional Center and that she’d sent a Snapchat from a holiday party that morning, they began to panic.
Her father and a brother-in-law went to every hospital receiving shooting victims and her sisters called every hospital in the region. The next morning, Velasco’s father, a retired California Highway Patrol lieutenant, called his daughters upstairs and told them to pray.
The week that has followed has brought days of shock and a list of somber preparations they didn’t ever imagine taking for a little sister such as making funeral arrangements and picking photos of a smiling Velasco at birthdays and weddings for a reception slideshow.
The Velasco family was given the badge she’d been waiting to receive.
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