A year later, Umpqua Community College president reflects on deadly shooting


A year ago, a gunman opened fire on the Umpqua Community College Campus, killing nine people and injuring several others.

The lights in Snyder hall are off, the windows of room 15 and 16 are still boarded up and blacked out after all this time, so no one can see inside. Though many don't have to, they carry the image of what happened inside of those classrooms on that October day with them, always.

One single gunman took so much from so many people that day. He took nine innocent lives, he injured many others and single-handedly changed the fabric of the UCC campus forever.

A day students now refer to as 10-1.

Now, the university's president is sharing what the school is doing to help students look beyond the violence as they return to classes.

"This place is supposed to be a safe place of learning, not the kind of place you'd ever expect a tragic event to occur," said UCC President Debra Thatcher.

UCC President Debra Thatcher wasn't working at the university at the time of the shooting, though she remembers that day vividly.

"You get this story and your heart just bleeds, every campus feels violated," said Thatcher.

When she took the job this summer, she knew it would be challenging to reclaim the site of Oregon's deadliest mass shooting, but she's trying.

"For some people it will be a lifetime, we all respond very differently," said Thatcher.

Thatcher says for the most part enrollment this fall seems to be holding steady, though for some, it's too painful to come back.

"I know some have been on campus this summer, someone said 'I want to come today,' so a professor allowed her and her friends came to class and they chatted. Certainly, we've had students who have had to leave, it's a difficult event for people to deal with."

The university purchased new locks for classroom doors and light poles to improve visibility at night with government funding it received after the shooting. The school also hired three more security officers, according to Thatcher.

But, perhaps the most glaring reminder of what happened remains in the heart of campus, though not for long.

University leaders say they finally made the call this summer to deconstruct Snyder hall.

"We got funding to deconstruct the building and build another hall there," said Thatcher.

Administrators say the building will be made up of classrooms and offices spaces, but configured differently. There's still discussions about what to name the hall, but they think it will likely bear the same name.

They hope to have the building finished by 2017.

"That will also bring healing to the campus as well as looking forward to bright future," said Thatcher.

And as they rebuild Snyder hall, Thatcher hopes to rebuild hope on the UCC campus.

"Even though I meet individuals still dealing with 10-1, I think this is an incredibly positive campus and people don't want to be defined by that, the survivors don't want to be defined by that," she added.

UCC administrators say there's no immediate plans to build a memorial on campus at this point, they're still focused on helping people become strong again. But, they will revisit the issue likely later this year.

(This story was originally published on Sept. 19)

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