Periodically spikes and valleys of life are extreme and compressed. So seems the last three days. First the shootings at Umpqua Community College where nine victims died, nine were wounded and one more left this world a lost distressed soul. It was far from my home, my work and my life, but once my head wrapped around the event, so very close to my soul. Again the state, the country, the whole world was assaulted by an all too frequent and routine massacre of innocent people. Again, the argument about guns came to surface, some seeking more restrictions on available of guns while others defending the privilege of owning and using guns of all types.
This was just a day after my last cancer treatment leaving me free of the disease. That was a day after my first class teaching this term at the university; typically the favorite day of my year and if this was an exception to the routine, it was on the high side.
Today, two days after the shooting, the Polk Community Free Clinic was open. Fifteen persons were available see providers and receive some care. It was a good day, busy, positive feedback, laughter, smiling faces and content patients. Stories were cared about past notable patients. Fifteen patients and some twenty volunteers went home feeling better about life, their health and their community than when they awoke.
And then there was this evening. We put together an opportunity for college students and community to gather at dusk with candles, song, prayers and readings to stand together in solidarity and support for those affected by the shooting. First there were five, then six. Soon there were seven, and then ten. More came from the resident halls, others from the parking lot. They can in pairs and groups of six or seven. Finally when only candlelight could be seen, some 60 stood in a circle singing and sharing silence, even as they heard the names of the victims. As the group melted into the darkness, same groups hugged and shared their support for each other.
A staff member of WOU shared with me that after checking out some details, discovered when we attended the high school graduation of his nephew, he attended the graduation of the soldier who confronted the shooter. A student standing alone as the crowd left, when asked how she was doing, said that she was a freshman from Roseburg where the shooting occurred and several of the deceased were freshman from Roseburg. I've not recovered from her pain yet.
Participation at the vigil displayed the solidarity so important at a time like this. What strength we could feel. And what pain we felt. May we all work in community to avoid this situation again.