WINCHESTER — A year after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College that left 10 people dead and those living in disarray, several Douglas County leaders shared their views about community recovery.
UCC President Debra Thatcher provided encouraging words about the college and community recovery in the wake of the Oct. 1 campus tragedy.
“Oct. 1 will be another step in the healing process here at the college,” she said. “The community may feel like it’s moving ahead, but there are going to be individuals who will be hit hard by the memories the one-year mark brings back, so we’ll have a temporary setback in our healing process, but I think from there on out, it’s going to be a positive trajectory.”
Despite the challenges brought on by the Oct. 1 shooting, Thatcher chose to move to this community earlier this year to lead the college as president and to assist with ongoing recovery efforts.
“These shootings occur around the world in random, unpredictable ways, and the people who typically do them have a mental illness or some other (issue) in their lives, so you don’t know when they will strike,” she said. “What was special about it here is that this community did not fall apart because of it.”
Ford Family Foundation President Anne Kubisch believes that people within the community who were directly impacted by Oct. 1 will never recover, and will continue to think about it every day. She believes the rest of the community will have good days and bad days.
“Sometimes we live our everyday lives as if it never happened, and then something happens that triggers our memories and emotions, and throws us right back into how we felt right after the tragedy,” she said.
Learning from other cities that have experienced tragic events, Kubisch said that Roseburg must prepare for the long haul. She added that 20 years later, people in Oklahoma City are still receiving mental health counseling.
“The good news is that our community came together to support each other, to heal and to create a Douglas County that was even better than before,” Kubisch said. “I’m not sure we would have had the sense of community and common purpose before the UCC tragedy.”
Roseburg City Administrator Lance Colley believes the community has done a great job with recovery efforts by supporting the college and the families impacted by the tragedy.
“A lot of healing and recovery has taken place, but there are still a number of individuals who today and for sometime in the future will still need support,” Colley said.
He explained that a number of groups have been created within the community to assist those individuals still in need, like the Community Healing And Recovery Team and The Leadership Council.
CHART continues to meet once a month with representatives from local government, nonprofits, organizations, and with the medical, mental health and faith based communities. It attempts to understand ongoing issues while generating opportunities to meet those needs.
Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn provided his views on community recovery with an outlook on local schools.
“Roseburg is incredibly resilient, but we will never look at our schools the same. Parents will always have worries in the back of their minds,” he said.
He believes that the pain will grow less with each passing year, but for some people it won’t.
“We are still grieving and there will continue to be emotional fallout from it for years to come. We need to be prepared for that and support people as that occurs,” Washburn said.
The Rev. Kathleen Flynn of the Unity of Roseburg was previously a hospice chaplain and believes recovery takes whatever amount of time it takes.
“When we experience a loss, the whole year that follows is a reminder of the anniversaries, the birthdays, the special times, so as we come up on Oct. 1 again, we are remembering as a community,” Flynn said.
She also explained that even though community members did not know the Oct. 1 victims directly, they experienced grief because they are part of the whole of this community and they too were touched by Oct. 1.
“They needed permission to grieve for that and to grieve for families that they didn’t even know and to hold them in the light,” Flynn said.
Leaders of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Roseburg said they continue to see recovery within the faith community as well.
“As a community we still see that there is a lot of pain,” said Pauline Schulze, business administrator at St. Joseph Catholic Church. “I think that people are still dealing with issues like post traumatic stress and coming to grips with what unfolded a year ago.”
She added that “people need to feel like they can put their next foot forward and move on with their lives. Not to forget, but to be able to move on in a positive manner that is not self destructive and gives back to the community.”
Pastor Jose Campos of St. Joseph said recovery is a slow process. He has met with several families directly involved with the tragedy.
“I am trying to visit the different families to continue to have that contact and to ask God to be with them and to assist them in this process of healing,” Campos said. “It takes time because our wounds are very deep in the soul.”
Through ongoing recovery efforts, the St. Joseph parish dedicated a UCC memorial Friday in front of the Roseburg church. The 8-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary will face the college with her arms extended to behold the sad event that took place on Oct. 1, 2015.