We are Umpqua Community College

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.

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.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

14 thoughts on “We are Umpqua Community College

  1. It is blinding when these things happen, so close to home. It happened to me long ago and I am still affected when it happens again. Take care and be kind.

  2. If it can happen in Roseburg …. I am well removed by distance and time …. yet touched by this tragedy as though Oregon was again my home. Mpc-OIT 85

  3. Hey Sam:

    Evelyn Martens here (I don’t know if you remember, but we worked together briefly at UW-Platteville).

    Thanks for expressing this. I’m working at a community college in Lafayette, Louisiana, which, as you may have heard on the national news, was the target of a movie theater shooting a few weeks ago.

    Where does this come from, and where do we go from here? I offer no solutions. As you say, “I am glutted. I am dizzy, lost.”

    Give my best to Jennifer, who, I believe, is still one of my Book Buddies–alas, from afar.

    1. Evelyn, I remember you well and fondly! I always admired the work you did in UWP’s Writing Center.

      I didn’t know that you’d moved to Lafayette, but that’s a wonderful town — I did some research there for my last novel — and they’ve been often on my mind since that recent shooting. 😦

  4. Well said! Our job shouldn’t be dangerous. Our students should feel safe! Heartbreaking! This is just crazy following the horrible accident last week for our international students!
    Michaelann Allen
    Tenured Faculty
    Phi Theta Kappa Advisor/Greater NW Region Associate Coordinator

  5. To strike at the root, you need to hit a writing class at a community college in a remote, bucolic, perhaps beloved community. It’s the obliquity that matters. It’s the axe-blow’s encounter with the fundament. OUR fundament. THEN we can notice that we have, as a society, a teeny bit of a weapons problem. Perhaps. Remember that King encountered Gandhi’s ideas at the Crozier Theological Seminary, in a school and moment of no importance; just a teacher and a student- an almost invisible transaction. Well, that is how this gets done. Teachers, man your stations. Writers… I am sorry but this is up to you. Lead.

  6. Samuel..Thank you! YOu express my reaction…saddened into numbness with the fear that we wont act to get rid of the ease that this happens…gun laws…mental health help…whatever it takes lets unite and push for what is best for all. I am beret with the questions of how we can as a nation change the way we think we need guns for protection…I sometimes feel like a minority.but maybe we have been quiet er…
    all of us..

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