The massacre of 14 people enjoying an early holiday celebration at a San Bernardino social services building has left families, friends, co-workers and an entire community in mourning even as politicians use the tragedy to push forward aggressive gun-control legislation while avoiding naming the source of the terror attack as radical Islam.

In the midst of the positioning and posturing, friends and family are remembering one of the victims, Bennetta Betbadal, with a tragic irony.

The 46-year-old who lost her life in the attack was the mother of three who loved her “job, her community and her country, but most importantly her husband and large extended family” according to friends. “She was proud to work for the people of San Bernardino County.”

Betbadal was born in Iran in 1969 and, at age 18, fled what her family termed “Islamic extremism and the persecution of Christians that followed the Iranian Revolution.”

She arrived in New York City, moving to California to attend Cal Poly Pomona, earning a degree in chemistry in addition to a bachelor of science degree in biotechnology.

Betbadal began work as an inspector with the San Bernardino County Health Department in 2006.

Married in 1997, Betbadal and her husband, both devout Catholics, settled in Rialto, less than 20 minutes from the Inland Regional Center where the attacks took place Wednesday.

The County Department of Public Health had rented a room at the facility for a holiday party, which was attended briefly by one of the shooters before he returned with his wife to carry out the murderous assault.

Betbadal's husband, Arlen Verdehyou, waited with the couple’s children for news after the shootings, holding out hope until the county coroner arrived to tell them that Bennetta was among the deceased.

“There is no reason for evilness. You just have to be strong for each other,” he said. “She had just decorated a beautiful Christmas tree.”

His thoughts were echoed by county sheriff John McMahon. “This shooting has caused each victim’s family, friends and co-workers, along with the first responders to suffer an enormous personal tragedy. We must stand strong and offer support to each individual affected by this senseless attack.”

Remembering the reason Bennetta had originally come to America, a family member told reporters, “It is the ultimate irony that her life would be stolen from her that day by what appears to be the same type of extremism that she fled so many years ago.”

The victims in the San Bernardino shooting ranged in age from 26 to 60 years old.


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