‘Our worst fears had come true’

By Mark Baker | Umpqua Community College Shootings | |

A student describes the chaos that followed gunshots in the next room

ROSEBURG — After being home-schooled through high school, Hannah Miles was enjoying her fourth day of her Writing 121 class Thursday morning at Umpqua Community College when she heard what sounded like “a really loud pop” come from the classroom next door.

“It sounded like the slap of a ruler on a chalkboard,” said Miles, 19, sitting on a metal folding chair in Douglas Hall at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, a white American Red Cross blanket wrapped around her as her father, Gary Miles, and younger sister, Hailey, sat on either side of her.

Then someone suggested to the instructor, Amy Fair, that she should knock on the other classroom’s door to make sure “everyone is OK in there.”

Fair did, but there was no answer, Miles said.

Just the horror of “a bunch of shots in a row.”

That’s when a young man in Miles’ class — who had introduced himself on Monday, on the first day of fall classes, and said he’d been in the military — stood straight up and yelled, “Everybody out!”

So they all ran. They left their backpacks and their iPhones, and they ran.

“Everybody was running in different directions; it was chaos,” said Miles, clearly still in shock from the ordeal two hours earlier.

She and some other students followed Fair into the campus bookstore, where an employee called 911. Then everyone, about 10 of them, were hustled into a back room.

“We were just told to stay quiet,” Miles said. “We didn’t know what was going on.”

Then they heard more shots.

That’s when some in the back room began to cry.

“We knew it was real,” Miles said. “Our worst fears had come true.”

Soon, they heard footsteps by the door. Someone was inside the bookstore.

“Come on out, it’s OK,” the voice said.

But having no idea who it was, the bookstore employee, who was inside the room with them, pushed everyone to the back wall.

Twenty to 30 minutes would pass before police arrived and got them out and onto a bus to the fairgrounds.

“That’s when everyone just fell apart,” Miles said, recalling that when police opened the door they could see the crime scene tape already up.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” she said, tears now streaming down her face. “It made it real. As long as we were in the bookstore and hiding, it was OK.”

As she spoke at the fairgrounds, Miles still had no idea who the shooter was and didn’t know that he’d been killed in a shootout with police.

“But I will never forget running out of that classroom and hearing those shots,” she said. “I’m at a loss for words. I just can’t believe this is real.”

While she was still in the bookstore room, someone lent Miles a phone and she called her mother, Sandy Miles, a respiratory therapist at Mercy Medical Center. She left a message saying there had been a shooting but that she was OK.

Then she called her father, the pastor at Christian Life Center in Roseburg. He answered.

“Dad, I want you to know I’m OK,” she said.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I think there’s been a shooting, but I’m OK.”

Once off the phone, Gary Miles prayed, then called his wife and left a message.

Then he called Hailey, 16, also home-schooled, who was doing her homework, told her what he knew and said he was coming to get her.

He picked her up and the two drove to the fairgrounds, Gary Miles having heard on the radio that that’s where students were being transported.

That’s where they found Hannah, sitting in shock, the blanket around her, a couple of volunteers tending to her.

“Sad,” said Gary Miles, his arm around Hannah. “It’s the times we’re living in. It’s the hours we’re living in.

“UCC has suffered a great loss,” he said. “This town has suffered a great loss, but we’ll be OK. It’ll take time, but we’ll be OK.

“I’m so sorry for the families who’ve lost someone,” he said, alongside his daughter. “But I’m so thankful she was spared.”

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkBakerRG . Email mark.baker@registerguard.com .