It began with suffering. It began with an unnecessary, meaningless act of violence. It began with loss. A classroom of students trying to better themselves. A teacher seeking to improve the lives of others. Nine killed. Nine wounded. Meaningless. Unnecessary. Wrong. Across the Umpqua Valley no one remained untouched. Work stopped. Restaurants closed. Schools sent children home. People wept.
No one in this valley, not one person connected to the Umpqua Valley, remained untouched. This is a small region. This is a close-knit community. The loss was personal.
And for a moment. For a small moment, there was only the pain, and the loss, and the empty silence.
And then people began to act.
A welder made some signs. Two women began to bake cookies. Restaurants brought food. Designers created stickers. Tattoo artists donated work. T-shirts were made and given away. A high school student set up a car wash. A harp player went down to the hospital. Businesses posted signs of prayer and encouragement. People offered their gifts to help those who had suffered. Hats were passed. Money was raised. Churches and counseling centers and places of care were opened all hours. Little by little, the healing began. In response to one person’s act of violence, a community offered ten thousand acts of love.
And when Umpqua Community College reopened, truck drivers and crane operators and neighbors from near and far lined the entry to the school. They stood with flags and handmade signs of love. They stood waving and weeping, encouraging those same students who had been threatened, to go forward. To return to school. To learn. To heal. To improve themselves. To go on living. To keep the fear from swallowing their lives.
And in that moment of shared suffering and shared support people said to one another, “We are in this together.”
What is The Umpqua Story Project?
The Umpqua Story Project was created in order to help facilitate healing through personal storytelling. The project began following the October 1, 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College with the purpose of providing compassionate settings where people across the Umpqua Valley could share their experiences of kindness and generosity in the wake of the tragedy.
The project trained volunteers in compassionate listening, set up tables in coffee shops, libraries, schools and other public spaces across Douglas County and invited people to tell us what they felt and how they responded to the shooting at UCC. In addition to providing opportunities for the public to record their experiences, we also sent out staff members to record stories from individuals who had responded to the tragedy with particular creativity and care.
The Umpqua Story Project is supported by The Ford Family Foundation and The Douglas County Museum. The project is conducted by The Hearth, a non-profit registered in the state of Oregon, which seeks to deepen relationships, cultivate compassion, and address suffering in local communities through the practice of personal storytelling.
The Umpqua story project is directed by storyteller and community activist Mark Yaconelli, the founder and Executive Director of The Hearth. Karri Miller, a Roseburg native and Adjunct Instructor at Umpqua Community College, serves as Project Manager. Dustin Cosby, Assistant Professor of Communication at Umpqua Community College, is one of the project photographers and conducted many of the audio interviews. Keith Henty, an audio specialist from Southern Oregon, edits all of our audio recordings, facilitates many of our interviews and serves, along with Dustin, as a project photographer. Susan Rochester is an Associate Professor and chair of the Fine Arts Department at Umpqua Community College. Susan is the project curator, overseeing the exhibit of all of our materials for the October 2016 exhibit at Umpqua Community College.
To ask a question, submit a story, or invite our staff to conduct an interview, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.