"It was a very difficult not to get up and start driving there," Victoria Hawks tells PEOPLE

By Chris Harris
Updated October 02, 2015 12:35 PM
Credit: Michael Sullivan/The News-Review/ZUMA

Victoria Hawks didn’t know what to do as she sat inside her Roseburg, Oregon, real estate office on Thursday watching live television coverage of the mass shooting unfolding five miles away at Umpqua Community College.

A member of Roseburg’s city council, Hawks was frantic for information about her two grandsons, both students at the school.

“It was a very difficult not to get up and start driving there,” Hawks tells PEOPLE. “I kept checking with their mothers to find out where they were, and if they were safe. They were both locked inside the library, about 100 ft. from the science building,” where alleged gunman 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer killed nine and wounded seven others.

“I had an instant cry when it first happened, and then, once I knew they were safe, I had a cry of relief,” Hawks says. “Today, there is just this feeling of dull shock.”

Hawks says she worked at the college years ago and that her children and their children have been students there. She says the average student age at the school is about 34, as the college offers continuing education classes.

“My one grandson is pretty rattled from the experience because he was also a student at the high school in 2006,” when two bickering boys were involved in a shootout. The grandson also learned one of his favorite professors was killed by Mercer Thursday.

“Both boys will have a lot to think about for the rest of their lives,” Hawks says. “This has changed our community.”

There is a nursery school that sits atop a hill on the college’s campus, according to Hawks, who says she is thankful the gunman didn’t target the toddlers.

“God forbid he would have gone up that hill,” Hawks says, who tells PEOPLE only a highway separates the college grounds from a state police barracks.

Says Hawks: “The response was amazing. Otherwise, that fellow could have done a lot more damage.”

Today in Roseburg, the town remains in a state of shock as it awaits the names of those killed. Then, Hawks says, the mourning can begin.

“The community of Roseburg is 22,000 so I figure that when they release the names, we are bound to know somebody,” Hawks says with a sigh.

PEOPLE has learned from Roseburg’s City Manager C. Lance Colley that the families of the victims of Thursday’s mass shooting have all been notified, and that the medical examiner’s office will be releasing the names of those killed later on Friday.

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