Photo by Landon Stevens
Julie Gelien holds her candle during the vigil in the SU courtyard.
In the wake of the deadliest school shooting in American history, many people, including students at Southern Oregon University, are still left with many questions and unresolved issues.
A week ago Monday, Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old South Korean student at Virginia Tech, shot and killed two students in a dormitory before heading across campus where he locked himself, other students and professors in classrooms and began shooting, killing 30 people and himself.
“It’s a horrific event that could happen anywhere—even in a place where it would be unthinkable, such as Ashland,” said SOU senior Megan Shreeve.
Other students have felt the effects in different ways. Nicole Larrimore, a senior business administration major at SOU, notices the numbing effect the event has on her.
“I try not to think about it because I don’t want it to be real life,” said Larrimore.
Decarie Robertson, an elementary education student, asks, “If his life was so messed up that he wanted to end it, why did he have to take out innocent lives in the process?” Questions like these, she said, often don’t have easy answers.
Although most or all students are still reacting to the shooting, some students indicated they were not nervous or scared arriving on campus Tuesday morning, even though SOU has no specific plan of action if a shooting were to occur.
“I’m not really scared as far as our own school goes, but it makes you want to think about how quickly a life can end,” said Mandi Stewart, a health and physical education major.
Though Ashland and SOU have had no recent threats, some students are worrying about issues of school safety. One thing people talk about is how to get emergency messages to students in a timely way.
Presently, SOU uses an e-mail alert system, but is in the process of looking for other means of communicating, said Vice President for Student Affairs Jonathan Eldridge. Unfortunately, students don’t check their e-mails or do not receive them in time to take advantage of the notification.
“If there was a shooting here, I don’t think I would hear about it until I showed up. Whether they send an e-mail or not,” said SOU senior Megan Flannery.
School violence and shootings have become bigger media events in the last decade, and by the numbers, are getting worse.
“We’re seeing so much violence in schools,” says senior Zach Schmerber, “It’s starting to elevate into college now. It’s hard to see and watch.”
Students and faculty are sharing their feelings through various public forums. In the foyer of the Stevenson Union, individuals have the opportunity to write comments on a large board or in a card, which will be sent to Virginia Tech. Small group discussions and a candlelight vigil were held last week to help students express their fears, condolences and apologies.
“My heart and prayers go out to all the families and loved ones,” said junior Austin Loreman. “I just can’t imagine that happening to me or anyone that I know. There’s nothing I can say that will help or fix it, but I have heart felt compassion for everyone that was affected.”
Teresa Beskow, Scott Charlson, Ellie Corso, Darren Halstead, Jacob Hastings, Abby Horton, Matthew Rettke, Philip Shilts and Claire Zandoli contributed to this article.