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San Bernardino shooting: Family members, friends await word from loved ones

Sherry Esquerra held back tears Wednesday as she desperately tried to reach her daughter and son-in-law after shooters killed 14 people and wounded as many more at the building where her daughter works with children with disabilities.

People head to Rudy Hernandez Community Center to find survivors of deadly attack

Sherry Esquerra walks into the Rudy Hernandez Community Center hoping to learn whether her daughter and son-in-law were injured in the shooting rampage at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif. (Alex Gallardo/Reuters)

Sherry Esquerra held back tears Wednesday as she desperately tried to reach her daughter and son-in-law after shooters killed 14 people and wounded as many more at the building where her daughter works with children with disabilities.

Esquerra had Thanksgiving with her daughter last week and expected to see her Friday. She was hoping the two turned up safe at a community centre where people who were unharmed were being bused, but she was having no luck reaching her by cellphone.

"Nothing, I just get her message," she said. "Straight to voicemail."

Survivors of the shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., are escorted off buses to meet relatives at the Rudy Hernandez Community Center. (Alex Gallardo/Reuters)

The Rudy Hernandez Community Center in San Bernardino has been set up for people to reunite with their loved ones who who were in the building during the deadly attack. 

More than 600 people work at the Inland Regional Center, which serves 30,000 people with disabilities ranging from autism to cerebral palsy to epilepsy, from newborns to people in their 90s. Social workers help the adults find jobs, housing and transportation, said Stacy McQueen, a member of the centre's board of trustees.

"It's terrible. It's a terrible thing that's happened here," said McQueen, who was trying to find out why the centre was attacked. "All of us are heartbroken."

At the time of the shooting, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health was holding a banquet in a conference room.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers and SWAT teams swarmed the area around the two office buildings for hours and it took several hours before they provided a briefing with casualty counts.

Two women embrace at a community centre where family members are gathering to pick up survivors after a shooting rampage that killed multiple people and wounded others in San Bernardino, Calif. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Those inside the building who reached family members described a tense situation, hiding behind locked doors and turning off lights so they wouldn't be found.

"She was whispering," said Olivia Navarro, whose daughter, Jamile Navarro is a case manager at the centre. "She was whispering and she said they were in a room, locked up because there were shooters."

Navarro's voice quivered as she described how her daughter told her she was going to turn off the lights and hang up in case the shooters arrived.

"I said, 'All right, I'll be there, turn off the lights, don't make a sound.' And that was it."

Her daughter eventually made it out safely.

A family member hugs a survivor of the shooting rampage at the Inland Regional Center after she is escorted off a bus at the Rudy Hernandez Community Center in San Bernardino, Calif. (Alex Gallardo/Reuters)

Marissa Gutierrez said she began crying when she got a text message from her aunt, Regina Kuruppu, at 11:10 a.m. saying there was a shooting at work and she was scared.

Gutierrez tried calling for more than an hour, but couldn't reach her as she hid in a closet. Police eventually found her there and she got out safely.

Sheela Stark, a board member at the centre, was trying to reach more than a dozen colleagues and workers, but had only heard back from one early in the day.

She was trying to stay positive by watching the news on TV and looking for familiar faces. By late afternoon she had managed to reach most everyone.

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