This morning, a young man went to the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, walked into a writing classroom, and opened fire. As I write this, the most common reports are that twenty people are wounded, and thirteen people are dead, including the writing teacher.
I teach at Chemeketa Community College; today, I was at the Salem campus, about two hours north of Roseburg. I was teaching my writing class when the shooting occurred; I didn’t hear the news until I was in my car and on the way home.
Online, a number of dear friends immediately contacted me to express both their heartache at this violent tragedy and their relief that it wasn’t my campus. I am so grateful for these friends, for their deep and sincere concern. I love them so much for checking in like that.
But here’s the thing: it was my campus. It was yours, too.
I don’t teach at Umpqua Community College, but I do teach at a community college in Oregon, alongside several of my brilliant Oregon writer friends. My wife is a faculty librarian at another community college (I texted her the news; she’d already heard via her campus email); a few more friends, more of Oregon’s brilliant writers, also teach at her college. Other friends of mine and other writers I know teach at yet other community colleges, other four-year colleges, other universities.
We’re a family, in a way. All in this vocation for more or less the same reasons, with more or less the same fierce conviction in the talents and successes of our students.
This shooting could have happened to any of us. And today, it feels like it did.
Folks, I am gutted. I am dizzy, lost. I feel eviscerated by some emotion — some combination of genuine shock and conditioned resignation, of heartshaking grief and impotent rage — that I cannot find a word for.
I not even sure why I’m here writing this. It’s not to share the news — I refuse even to link to the story. You can find it if you want.
It’s not to offer solutions — the only solutions I know of, we’ve all known of for years, decades now, and as a society, America refuses to enact anything like those solutions. It’s not to arrive at insights — I am struck blank by this news, my mind razed.
It’s not to say or do the things I have said and done so many times before. So many shootings before.
So many shootings.
So many of us affected by it. So many of us emotionally wounded. All of us wounded. All of us Umpqua Community College. All of us Roseburg, Oregon.
All of us.