About 2,000 attend a vigil in honor of the nine people killed on the campus of Umpqua Community College
ROSEBURG — They stood with burning candles in their hands, at first mournful and unsure what to do. After all, no one here had been through this before.
They heard the official comments, as well as words from neighbors they know and see every day, and then the crowd of about 2,000 vowed to heal and become a stronger community.
“We don’t know why this happened. We only know that we are called to come together, to banish fear and be a strong and supportive community,” Gov. Kate Brown told those who massed at Stewart Park Amphitheater Thursday night to remember those killed and injured in the worst mass shooting in Oregon history.
“In our sorrow, we will remember those who were lost here today,” the governor said. “And, in that way, they will be remembered forever.”
Umpqua Community College interim President Rita Cavin asked all in attendance who are UCC students to “raise their hands and shout out!”
The response was enthusiastic hollers and screams.
“We promise we will do everything to make your return to campus as comfortable as possible,” Cavin said.
Then she asked all UCC employees and anyone else with affection for the small, tight-knit community college to also shout out.
They did — with gusto.
“We hear you,” Cavin said amid a horde of media from across the state and nation. “The world hears you.”
Then she asked everyone to do her and her school a favor: “If you’re angry, stay away until you’re not angry …
“Anger caused this, and it’s going to take a long time. … This is a terrific, terrific community, and we can rise above this and focus on helping each other.”
Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice concluded his comments with a challenge:
“This is not about the shooter,” he told those at the vigil. “I challenge you to never utter his name. This is about the tragic loss for these families.”
Roseburg City Manager Lance Colley said he hoped he’d never have to address such a gathering.
“Please pray for all those who still don’t know where their loved ones are,” Colley implored. “And please understand that this is a time when we all need to pull together. This is a terrific outpouring of love. Please keep the families in your prayers.”
State Sen. Jeff Kruse of Roseburg said, “This tragedy could be our ‘golden moment,’ ” adding that “in an era when everybody focuses on themselves, we are not going to do that.”
After Kruse’s remarks, someone shouted out: “Roseburg strong!”
Many then held their candles high in the air as someone yelled, “UCC’s strong!”
Then came a chant of “UCC! UCC! UCC!”
“I am UCC,” a woman in the crowd said.
“I am UCC,” a man said, as many in the crowd, coming from various spots, repeated the words.
“It’s a sad day for Oregon!” a man deep in the crowd hollered.
“Change!” screamed a woman.
“Change! Sickness! Change!”
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Correction: Rita Cavin is interim president of Umpqua Community College. An earlier version of this story misidentified her as Rita Calvin.