Shock and dis­be­lief haunt close-knit Rose­burg in the shadow of gun­man


In close- knit Rose­burg, ev­ery­one knows some­one af­fected by Thurs­day’s shoot­ing, in­clud­ing the med­i­cal work­ers and psy­chol­o­gists work­ing to sup­port the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies.

“I worked for 28 years at that col­lege. I know a lot of peo­ple there,” said Dean Remick, a re­tired theater and speech in­struc­tor at Um­pqua Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

The U.S. town, where 21,000 peo­ple live nes­tled be­tween hills cov­ered in early au­tum­nal col­ors, was in shock at the car­nage.

Remick, 62, met friends for cof­fee on Fri­day. He couldn’t help think­ing it could have been him stand­ing in front of the class­room when shooter Chris Harper Mercer broke in and shot nine peo­ple dead.

“I taught many times in that class­room,” he said with a con­fused smile.

“There’s a sense of pride about our com­mu­nity, and to think that we’re get­ting na­tional recog­ni­tion be­cause some­one shot peo­ple...” Remick, in a fleece jacket and base­ball cap, trailed off.

A few me­ters away, Pa­trick James, a psy­chol­o­gist spe­cial­iz­ing in cri­sis man­age­ment — whose girl­friend sur­vived the or­deal at UCC — said Thurs­day was one worst of his life.

“I’ve trained all my life for some­thing like this, but I never thought I’d live it,” said James, in a navy blue sport coat and long auburn pony­tail.

He first heard of the shoot­ing from his girl­friend, a stu­dent at the col­lege who was bar­ri­caded in a class­room and asked him to call the po­lice.

Tears and Hys­te­ria

But he spent most of the day of­fer­ing sup­port to trau­ma­tized lo­cals. “I can’t for­get the blank stare of peo­ple who were wait­ing for news of their loved ones,” he said.

“There were some in tears, some in a state of shock or hys­te­ria.”

Even stu­dents who were not on cam­pus Thurs­day felt the shock. Alicia Alspaugh, 21, hur­ry­ing to work on Fri­day, said she had spent all day on the phone and so­cial media try­ing to make sure her friends were safe.

She said she knew some of the vic­tims: a young woman who was shot 10 times and re­mained in crit­i­cal con­di­tion Fri­day, a 20-year-old fa­ther who died on the scene and another young man she had met sev­eral times.

At Rose­burg’s Mercy Med­i­cal Cen­ter hos­pi­tal, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Jason Gray re­counted with blood­shot eyes how mem­bers of his staff, some of whom are close to the vic­tims, strug­gled to be­lieve early re­ports of the shoot­ing.

“Ini­tial emo­tions are dis­be­lief. And then it is fo­cused on treat­ing the pa­tients. And then us and the staff go through the rest of the range of emo­tions, from dis­be­lief, from anger, from sad­ness to res­o­lu­tion.

“It is still very raw for a lot of peo­ple,” Gray said.

Gray had never dealt with shoot­ing vic­tims aside from the oc­ca­sional ac­ci­dent, de­spite liv­ing in a re­gion where gun own­er­ship is com­mon­place. Thurs­day was a par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing day, he said.

Those chal­lenges were com­pli­cated by per­sonal ties. “One of our big­gest chal­lenges is sup­port­ing not only the pa­tients and fam­i­lies, but our own care­givers,” Gray said.


Women mourn dur­ing a vigil at a Wal­mart park­ing lot in Rose­burg, Ore­gon on Fri­day, Oct. 2.

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