Roseburg Community Reels After College Shooting: 'The Heartache is Just Beginning'
Those who called the timber town home were stunned by the carnage, coming together to grieve and support one another.
It only took 10 minutes to change an entire community forever.
On Thursday at about 10:30 a.m. PST, a man identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer entered a building on Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, and shot and killed nine people and wounded seven, before he was killed during a gunfire exchange with police, officials said.
Those who call Roseburg home were stunned by the carnage, coming together to grieve and support one another.
“Oct. 1 is over. Its heartache is just beginning,” Melinda Benton, advisor for the Umpqua Community College Mainstream Newspaper, wrote on the paper’s Facebook page on Friday.
She described Snyder Hall, where Harper-Mercer opened fire, as an old building where writing, speech, literature and communication courses are taught.
“I have taught at UCC for 20 years, and most of that time in Snyder Hall,” she wrote. “Classrooms all have one glass wall, a wall that brings in light. And gunshots. A glass wall meant for beauty that has caused fear for years as countless times students and staff have complained about its vulnerability.”
Those who spend time in the classrooms often worried what they would do if an earthquake hit the area, but never considered the glass walls would allow a different type of danger.
“We have joked about getting a campus boat because most students and staff live on the other side of the river. It’s not so funny now,” she wrote.
Hours after the bloodshed, students, faculty and residents joined together in the town remember those who were lost. Similar vigils were held throughout the state.
"It breaks my heart that this happened in our small town, but it warms my heart to see everyone come together to honor those we lost,” someone wrote in a memorial book at the vigil in Roseburg’s Stewart Park, OregonLive reported.
“We know this is not going to be our defining moment, we will not be terrified,” a faculty member said during the gathering.
On Friday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said, "One person's deranged act may have broken all of our hearts, but he cannot prevent our hearts from growing bigger and stronger.
"All of Oregon stands with Umpqua Community College and the City of Roseburg," she continued.
Roseburg is located in the Umpqua River Valley in Southern Oregon, known mostly as a timber town and for its Roseburg Forest Products.
"I've been to Roseburg. There are really good people there,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference hours after the shooting.
Wilma Wood, 73, grew up in Roseburg and described her home to INSIDE EDITION as a sleepy town where one wouldn’t think twice about leaving their door unlocked.
“I was shocked when I heard what happened. I thought, it can’t happen here, not here,” she said. “Everybody is so nice here; it makes me want to cry.”
But Roseburg once before was the scene of a school shooting, when in 2006, 14-year-old Vincent Leodoro walked into Roseburg High School with a semi-automatic pistol loaded with hollow-point bullets and shot fellow student Joseph Monti four times in the back in the school courtyard, USA Today reported.
Monti survived and Leodor was convicted of attempted murder assault and several weapons charges.
While that shooting was allegedly motivated by animosity over girls, witnesses reported Harper-Mercer shot people after asking about their religions, the Roseburg News-Review reported. It remained unclear Friday why Harper-Mercer would definitively target Umpqua Community College and choose to open fire in Snyder Hall.
“Snyder Hall is most of all a student space,” Benton wrote. “A place where those who've experienced job loss, divorce, recovery from addiction or poverty come to search for a better life.
“A place where bright young people share thoughts and dreams as they start down important roads. Our community has many challenges, but this was the safe space where you could go to make things better. But not on Oct. 1. Not now. And that is not ok.”
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