Professors and Parents Talk About the Tragedy of Umpqua Community College Shooting: 'We Hid, Crying and So Scared'
The community reflects on the massacre they experienced just hours ago
The Douglas County Fairgrounds hosted a grim scene on Thursday afternoon.
Speaking to PEOPLE about the fatal shooting that has left 10 dead and at least 20 injured, Professor Toni Clough, who’s been teaching business at Umpqua Community College for 10 years, reveals what it was like to be on campus when the shooting occurred.
“It’s all such a blur right now,” Clough says. “I saw people running and screaming and then we went into lockdown procedure. All I saw was people running and I knew something was very wrong, but I didn’t know what until another faculty yelled ‘active shooter!'”
Meanwhile, authorities in another building sequestered parents desperate for news about their children, some of whom were being questioned by federal and state officials about the shooting.
Jessica Chandler stood in the shade between the two buildings, her eyes wet from crying, in a panic. Her daughter Rebecka Carnes, an 18-year-old freshman who had just started classes at Umpqua Community College on Monday, had joined her mom for lunch Wednesday. The two haven’t spoken since, and Chandler has no idea if she’s alive or dead.
“They just told us to come to the Fairgrounds and wait,” Chandler says. “Her best friend told me she’s been life-flighted to Riverbend [Hospital]. I called there, gave them descriptions of her name, tattoos and told them she was in the same class as the shooting.”
As parents and loved ones wait helplessly for news, Clough details the terror of experiencing the massacre first-hand.
“We hid until the police cleared the buildings, crying and so scared,” she says. “Until we evacuated to the fairgrounds to wait until everyone was there and then they sent us home.”
The business professor says that no one was able to leave the fairgrounds until every bus carrying more people came in. While they waited, students and teachers alike searched for friends and colleagues.
“I’m still numb. I don’t know how to process this,” Clough said. “Everybody just looks like they are shell shocked. They look like deer in headlights, we were so happy when we saw one another and looked through the crowd for another person that we could check off the list.
“I feel numb, it’s like I’m in a horrible nightmare.”
While the community learns the fate of those involved, many are trying to piece together the senseless tragedy that occurred today. However, one former professor says that students have brought weapons to campus in the past and it s a hard situation for security to monitor.
“It is in the heart of a hunting area,” Eileen Nuffer, who taught at the school 5 years ago, says. “We have had incidents with teachers having students bring knives and guns in the class and there isn’t a whole lot the security can do about keeping them off of campus.
“They can have it there if they have all the right permits. As teachers it puts you in a tight spot. Technically they would ask you not to bring a weapon to school but you are allowed if there is nothing illegal about it.”
• Reporting by WINSTON ROSS, ROSE MINUTAGLIO AND CHRISTINE PELISEK