On October 1st as I left my classroom around 9 pm, I swiped through my phone’s apps to get a quick Facebook update in before my commute home. My entire newsfeed was plastered with conflicting news stories about the Umpqua Community College shooting.
My blood ran cold and my legs went out from under me. I sat there in the deserted hall of my school trying desperately to get the most updated, the most correct information while simultaneously trying to make contact with the faculty members I knew there. Roseburg is the next large town south of Eugene, and a nice handful of my grad school friends work there either full time or adjunct–including one very favorite former housemate. I was a wreck.
My people, as it turns out, are all physically fine. Psychically…that’s a whole other story. I don’t know how their healing will even begin. I had a tiny taste this summer of what they’ve experienced, and it still affects me.
On my very first day of student teaching, I thought for a brief, brief moment that there was a shooter in my school. I had looked up from helping a student and caught sight of the door. There was a strange man there, and he was pointing a gun into my room. My first thought was “protect the kids.” I flew to put myself between them and the shooter.
It was the janitor. Our air conditioner had gone out and he was using an infrared gun to take temperature readings of the classrooms without disturbing anyone. I figured it out in seconds and continued teaching. My kids never noticed, never knew how terrified I had been. As soon as my time with them was over, I ran to the nearest restroom and was sick. It’s now been months since that happened, and I jump a little when I see someone unexpected peering into my classroom. I startle wildly when I hear a loud noise in the hallway. The bile rises in my throat as I remember that simultaneous rush of pure terror and tiger-like protection.
Pray for Roseburg. If my seconds of nothing affected me so, their road to healing will be a long and arduous one.
And pray for the Pagans, too. We lost one of our own in the shooting. As the Wild Hunt has reported, victim Kim Saltmarsh Dietz was one of us. My HPS in Washington knew her. They met at a shamanism class. We’ve lost a wonderful soul there.
And we might have gained a black mark in return. The media–to their credit–have not been focusing overmuch on the shooter. But those stories that do show him as an “involuntary virgin”–a lonely, deeply pathetic young man. Several cite an online dating profile he had made that lists “the left hand path” and “magick and the occult” as interests, and that he desired a partner who was “Pagan, Wiccan, Not Religious, but Spiritual.”
Already stories abound that the shooter was targeting Christians. This has the potential to escalate. Pray for the Pagans. And educate yourself. Calm and logic are the best defense against “war on Christianity” rhetoric.