Kayleen Holm, an 18-year-old student at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, was in the middle of chemistry lab when she noticed the lab aide was on her phone.
“All of a sudden the teacher’s face just went white, and she said there was an active shooter on campus,” Holm tells PEOPLE. Her class was in a building adjacent to Snyder Hall, where at least 10 people were murdered by a 20-year-old gunman who is now dead after exchanging fire with law enforcement.
Holm’s first reaction was disbelief, she says. “At first, I was kind of like, ‘What? No way? This is UCC. That wouldn’t happen.’ ”
But reality set in when she and her fellow students were led into the center of the science building, which Holm describes as “one of the safest places on campus,” where they waited for 45 minutes, calling and texting loved ones.
Holm says that police swept the campus buildings one by one, and when they came into the science building, they made everyone inside put their hands up. Everyone in the building then exited single-file, with their hands up.
Now, Holm is safe in a building at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, where students have been evacuated.
“People are standing around waiting for people to get off buses,” she says. “I’ve gotten in touch with everybody that I can think of, but I’ve had classes with so many different people, I really hope that everybody I know is okay. But I know there are some people that aren’t okay.”
Holm’s mother, Becky Holm, joined her daughter at the Fairgrounds. She had been away from her phone for several minutes, when, she tells PEOPLE, she noticed she had two text messages.
The first, she says, said, “‘I’m okay. There’s an active shooting at UCC, but I’m okay.’ ” But the next one, she says, said, “I love you.”
“Which was horrifying to me,” she says. “Because I didn’t pick up the text until five or ten minutes afterwards, and I’m thinking, ‘That’s the last message I’ll get from her.’ ”
Describing the scene at the Fairgrounds, Becky Holm says, “There’s lots and lots of hugs here.” She says the Red Cross has brought in water and Costco has brought cookies and snacks. She adds that mental health professionals and clergy members are also present, that church buses were brought in to evacuate people from the college and that the town taxi service is offering free rides home.
“That’s a small town for you,” she says.
Kayleen has mixed feelings about the idea of going back to class. On one hand, she says, she had full confidence in law enforcement’s ability to keep students safe.
On the other, she says, “I will have to walk by [Snyder Hall] every day. And I’m sure there’s gonna be physical evidence, whether it’s bullet holes or something along those lines.”
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