Oregon Community Grapples With Aftermath Of College Shooting
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The investigation continues into the how and why a gunman killed nine people on a community college campus in Roseburg, Ore., last Thursday. Authorities now say 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer killed himself after exchanging gunfire with police. As more details emerge, NPR's Tom Goldman reports that some residents of the small town are struggling for a bit of normalcy.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Which meant showing up at Fir Grove Park.
ALANSON RANDALL: Anthony, in the middle right there. Joe, Joe. There it is. Oh, Joe, you had a goal.
GOLDMAN: It was another busy Saturday for Alanson Randall, coach of three different teams in the Umpqua United Soccer Club. His 12-and-under-team, with Anthony and Joe, won and stayed undefeated for the season. But on this Saturday, two days after the attack, it probably was more significant that all the teams scheduled to play did and, says Randall, that the park was filled with cheering parents, grandparents, relatives, friends.
RANDALL: In a way, it's kind of a big group therapy session in a way 'cause everybody ends up talking to each other about what their experiences were, and they can kind of check and say, hey, are you doing OK? And so I think it's better getting people out and involved versus staying home and watching the news (laughter).
GOLDMAN: On the other side of the park, Corin Kelly, wearing a small black ribbon, chatted with Megan Tollefson, who held a sticker reading, I am UCC - Umpqua Community College. Both items were free at the snack bar. In a town filled with grief and shock, Kelly says she was feeling another emotion.
CORIN KELLY: It brings out a lot of anger - kind of like when 9/11 happened. I joined the Army right after 9/11 'cause I was angry, and I wanted to do what I could to help.
GOLDMAN: So what do you join now?
KELLY: Just support anybody who needs a shoulder to cry on or a smiling face.
GOLDMAN: We have heard over and over that part of the shock Thursday was that things like this don't happen in a small town like Roseburg. Certainly, people were rattled. Obviously, lots of kids are scared. Twenty-six-year-old Roseburg native Megan Tollefson is not.
MEGAN TOLLEFSON: And especially after seeing our law enforcement do what they did in less than 10 minutes, I don't think there's anything to worry about. I don't think there's any reason to hole up.
GOLDMAN: But even out in the open, unafraid, Tollefson, like so many, has questions for a dead gunman.
TOLLEFSON: Why? Why did you feel the need to be selfish about it and do it the way you did do it instead of seeking help, getting some kind of help to figure out what was wrong with yourself?
GOLDMAN: Ian Mercer is asking the same questions about his son, who killed himself at the end of his rampage at UCC. In a CNN interview from his home in California, British-born Mercer said he had a harmonious relationship with his son, but hadn't seen him since Chris Harper-Mercer moved to Oregon with his mother several years ago. In the interviewer, Ian Mercer said he was stunned by his son's reported arsenal seized by authorities after the attack.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
IAN MERCER: I'm not trying to say that to blame for what happened, but if Chris had not been able to get a hold of 13 guns, it wouldn't have happened.
GOLDMAN: Officials said Saturday the number actually was 14 after discovering another pistol in Chris Harper-Mercer's apartment. It was also announced an FBI behavioral analyst team has arrived to help figure out the why of the attack. Meanwhile, the Umpqua Community College campus reopens Monday. Classes resume a week later. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Roseburg, Ore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.