One minute at a time.
That’s how Trenna Meins described how she and her two daughters, Tina and Tawnya, got through the death of her husband Damian Miens, who was one of the 14 people killed in the Dec. 2 mass shooting during an office holiday work party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.
Meins, who is the principal of Sacred Heart Parish School in Rancho Cucamonga, talked about her experiences and those of her family prior to, during and since the shooting. She spoke at two Cal State San Bernardino criminal justice classes on Nov. 2.
“It’s not something that you plan for. Nobody can plan for something like this. But it’s not like, ‘Alright I’m going to go ahead and go to lunch, after this I’m going to make plans to do this, and after that I’m going to call this person,’” Meins said. “This is more of, ‘OK, one minute at a time, not one step at a time, not one day at a time.’ This is one minute at a time.”
It was the first time that Meins, who lives in Riverside, had spoken about the shooting and life afterward in a public setting. She had been invited to speak at the two classes by Brian Levin, a professor of criminal justice and the director of the university’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
The talk was more conversational in nature as both Meins and Levin sat behind a table at the front of the classroom and Meins answered Levin’s questions.
She talked about how the night before the shooting on Dec. 1, her husband hadn’t planned on going a meeting at the Inland Regional Center the next day because he had an inspection scheduled. Damien Meins had only recently begun working for the San Bernardino County of Environmental Health Department.
The next day, Dec. 2, at about noon, Trenna Meins, who had stayed home from work because of the flu, heard on the radio about the shooting. Alarmed about the location, she called and left messages on her husband’s phone, but there was no answer. A while later while talking to a family friend, she learned that meeting was indeed at the Inland Regional Center.
Meins, now accompanied by her two daughters along with friends and family, then went to a reunification center set up a few blocks from the shooting. There they waited, along with the other families and friends of the people who were at the Inland Regional Center, to hear word of the shooting victims.
“They were very nice to us,” Meins said. “There were a lot of chaplains and ministers.” Meins added that as the day went on, the number of people at the center dwindled as more and more people received information about their own family members.
At about 10 p.m. they were told to come back the next afternoon as there would be no additional information that night.
Mein and her daughters “didn’t sleep much. We huddled together.” The next day as they were getting ready to come to the reunification center, a San Bernardino County coroner came to her home with the news that she and her daughters feared: Damien Mein had been killed.
The next few days were filled with family, friends and colleagues visiting, attending memorial services and trying to make sense of the shooting.
Meins had met her husband in high school and they married not long after. It was a harried life for the young couple — they both worked and went to college at night while raising their two daughters. Trenna Meins graduated from Cal State San Bernardino, Damien from UC Riverside.
He started working for Riverside County in 1984 and retired in 2010. He had only recently started working for San Bernardino County. He also taught physical education at St. Catherine of Alexandria in Riverside.
She described her husband as a good and caring man. He liked to dress up as Santa Claus and also as Abraham Lincoln for the school.
Since her husband’s death, Meins has advocated on bringing people together to talk about finding common sense solutions to prevent violence.
“That’s exactly what he (Damien) would want us to do,” Meins said.
She said she’s not against the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, the right for citizens to bear arms. She has family members that are hunters, police officers, members of the military and even has a relative that owns a gun shop. But she does advocate that discussions should involve the ease that semi-automatic guns can be altered to automatic guns, ammunition that can pierce armor and increasing background checks.
“All I’d like is common sense,” Meins said.