total hearts received for Moments That Survive

Damian Meins

November 25, 2015. I returned home to stay with my parents for the entire Thanksgiving holiday and weekend. It’s wonderful. We have five whole days together, eating, watching movies, having intense philosophical conversations, laughing, rearranging furniture, and picking out a Christmas tree. I go home on Monday, happy.

On Wednesday, December 2, Mom calls me at work. I answer immediately. She’s been sick; I want to make sure she’s okay.  

“Do you see the news?” she asks.  Yes, I saw online that there was a big shooting in San Bernardino.  “Your father is in that building and I can’t get hold of him.”

I remember every second of that conversation and the ones that followed as I raced home—the desperate calls to hospitals to find out if he was there; to police; to information hotlines; to family members, telling them what was happening.

I remember watching each survivor depart the buses at the reunification center, looking for my dad, hoping in some strange way I’d see his hat, though I knew he wouldn’t wear it to work. 

Dad never came home. He was killed that day, along with 13 coworkers. Another coworker and his wife declared allegiance to a terrorist organization, and shot my dad five times. He died within seconds.  

My dad was extremely intelligent, he was compassionate, he was kind, and he made us laugh all the time with his quick wit and silly voices.  He was my creative and hardworking travel buddy that was generous with his time and talents, and he truly loved his family unconditionally.  He would often do something kind for me without saying anything, and when I found out he would always just say, “You can’t just tell someone you love them.”

It still hurts, every day.  Every challenge in my life is harder without him here, and every victory feels bittersweet.  Not a day goes by that I do not miss him.  I am not the same person I was before December 2. But I am forever grateful for the time we had together, and I will always cherish our memories, especially those we made in those last few weeks. 

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.