Umpqua Shooting

'This Is An Amazing Community:' Roseburg 2 Months Later

By Sage Van Wing (OPB)
Dec. 5, 2015 12:15 a.m.

It’s been two months since a 26-year-old student at Umpqua Community College shot and killed his professor and eight students.

Since then, there have been mass shootings in Paris, outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and in San Bernardino, California.

Speaking on OPB's 'Think Out Loud,' interim UCC president Rita Cavin said each new shooting that happens brings back all the emotions from that day two months ago:. "I think when you see it on TV, and you see it in all these other places – and now we're going to see it in San Bernardino – it's not personal. But when it's your college, it's personal."

Hannah Miles, a student who was in a nearby classroom when the shooting began, said that she and her friends still talk about the event every day. But, she said, "I’m just so thankful that we’re here right now, two months later, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to go back. It’s really about looking towards the future.”

The college has increased security and taken extra measures to make sure that students and faculty feel safe, including asking contractors at work on a new building to use quiet welding techniques rather than riveting – which can sound like gun shots.


Residents spoke of feeling traumatized by the national and international media who came to town in the days after the shooting. “The media was hounding for their answers. They didn’t care what they were doing or who they were hurting in the process," said Chester Johnson, a first responder to the scene. "It was great to see all of the media start leaving.”

Cavin emphasized the entire community has come together to console the victims and lend a hand where it's needed.

It's not normal for student body leaders to have to organize a community tribute for their fallen peers. Or for one of their teachers. And I said (to them), you know, in 20 years you're going to look back and think 'I'm different because I did this.'

Chris Boice, Douglas County Commissioner, described how, on the day of the shooting, he rushed down to the county dispatch center to start fielding non-emergency calls, and ended the day at the state police office talking to the Governor. “We get trained to do a lot of things," said Boice, "but none of them are dealing with that.”

Residents of Roseburg described feeling a sense of guilt that their lives were returning to a sort of normal, even as some families had lost loved ones, and victims were still recovering from physical wounds.

“I’d like to remind people," said County Commissioner Tim Freeman, "that only one person did something wrong. That day, one person showed up on this campus to hurt others. From that moment on everybody’s done everything right. This is an amazing community.”

Cavin also emphasized the resilience of the community. “I think the only way to come out of this is to strengthen love. And not to let the anger part take over. That’s what caused it, but that’s not what’s going to fix it.”

When asked what she wanted the rest of Oregon to understand about Roseburg, Miles said:

"I don’t want people to look at us and think of us as victims. What happened that day was truly awful. But the most amazing thing is the aftermath. How a community and a college and a group of young people to come together. It’s just so beautiful. I want everyone to know that we’re going to be OK.”