Note: Following the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon i write a piece that was published in the News Review. This is a follow-up to the original article.
On the first day of October 2015 I was training for a new position at work. The learning curve was already steep but when a panicked volunteer burst into our office with news of an active shooter on our campus, training was put on hold. As a disaster relief associate my first response was to contact our organization to set a deployment into action. The second response was the mother of a college age child who had numerous friends at the college. I checked in with a stern direction, “Don’t watch the news right now, they won’t have the real details yet.” Third was as a writer who loves her community. At 2 a.m. on October 2nd, I penned my heart and submitted, Dear World: From Roseburg to my editor. It was my intent to keep the record straight about what it means to love life and our community in the Umpqua Valley. It was one of the rawest pieces I had written up until that point.
It is so hard to believe it has been five years since the tranquility of our community was shattered by the insanity of a mass shooting. Many quickly went from a false sense of security to heightened alert. Lockdown drills at our schools became more urgent as did the need to have a more secure presence at our schools.
Something else happened as well. Tragedy brought out the best of who we are in some and clarified hidden agendas for others. We came together to mix our gifts with love and tears. We hugged and cried knowing that we would get through this but never over it. We wouldn’t forget the day we lost so many and those we didn’t lose would be changed forever.
Many asked to be of help. Others led the way, gathering groups to listen and meet the needs of those closest to the tragedy. As in all cases of loss, many are there for the immediate few are in it for the long haul, nevertheless, we are all still here.
For a couple of weeks, the world checked in on us. Many wondered how this could happen. We became a cautionary tale to some, an example of resilience to others. As usual, the politics made their way into the conversation as others stood firm in the belief that by allowing our grief would turn to action at the proper time.
Here we are, five years later and countless years wiser. As businesses began to shut down to flatten the curve near the beginning of 2020, local restaurants readjusted their expectations of business. Groups sprang into action making sure that our neighbors were able to keep local eateries open. Not unlike the rest of the world, we are trying to navigate a situation we are unfamiliar with except for one thing, we know how to come together when things get hard.
Then the fires came. In the past month we have experienced days where the smoke was a thick layer of night over the county. As our state suffered loss, the tightknit communities of Glide of Douglas County encountered the destruction of over 109 homes. Evacuations affected the entire town as well as Sutherlin and Idleyld. In tragedies like these, it’s the neighbors that usually come to help are the ones who need help themselves. Still, there are stories of families moving livestock to safety while their own homes stood in the danger zone.
That day five years ago at Umpqua Community College did not define us. Although we were added to a list of statistics that no one wants to find themselves on, we also found ourselves fortunate to live in a community where so many people care.
This is the Umpqua Valley. We aren’t perfect but we are perfectly us. For the most part, our folks step up to lend a hand but even more, we give our hearts.
Please take time today to remember all of those we lost and those who still bear the scars of that day.
Lawrence Levine, Treven Anspach, Sarena Moore, Lucas Eibel, Rebecka Carnes, Jason Johnson, Lucero Alcaraz, Quinn Cooper and Kim Dietz