Jillanne Michell slipped into a bathroom stall and thought to herself, “I might die here on this toilet.”
Seconds earlier, Michell had been teaching in the classroom next door to where eight students and one professor would eventually be gunned down during the Umpqua Community College shooting on Oct. 1, 2015.
As her class was wrapping up for the day, Michell excused herself to use the restroom.
“While I was in the restroom, the shots began. And I was terrified because they were so loud,” she told detectives later that day.
Michell froze, not knowing what to do.
“I just felt like I couldn’t leave the bathroom or I would get shot,” she said.
Michell climbed on top of a toilet and crouched down, hoping that if the shooter walked in, she would be hidden.
Bam Bam Bam Bam Bam.
“The shots were so loud and they sounded like they were so on the other side of the wall that I was worried the bullets were going to penetrate into the wall,” she said.
Bam Bam Bam.
As the shots continued, Michell began counting the number of gunshots she heard. Partially to keep track, but also to keep herself from hyperventilating.
Bam. Bam Bam. Bam Bam Bam Bam Bam.
Bam Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam Bam Bam.
“It was just excruciating,” she said.
Michell described her experience to detectives after the shooting. The recorded 27-minute interview was released Friday by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office along with hundreds of other documents as part of the shooting’s investigation.
As she walked into the interview she sat down and greeted the two detectives.
“It’s funny, I’ve been,” she said, trailing off. “It hasn’t hit me yet and it’s just sort of hitting me right now.”
Michell, a teacher at the college for 15 years, also attended the school as a student. She told detectives that while the shooting itself had been terrifying, she was really struggling with the thought that her students were alone in the classroom without her during the massacre.
“I mean we have procedures,” she said, “But then when you’re in the bathroom across the hall and you’re just afraid to come out.
“You don’t think it was cowardice?” she asked.
“I don’t think you’re a coward by any means,” one of the detectives said.