When the spotlight fades
Community leaders set up a structure to help build long-term recovery
For endless days last fall, it seemed like you couldn’t turn on the news without hearing about Roseburg. The shooting at Umpqua Community College grabbed the world’s attention. Media crews besieged the town. Local residents held meetings, conducted fundraisers. Donations flooded in to the UCC Strong fund and to individual accounts for victims and families. The president of the United States came to visit.
And then the vigils were over, and the crime tape came down. The college reopened. People went back to work. The media turned its attention to another shooting in another town.
effects can linger for years
But the effects of a traumatic event like the one that happened at UCC linger long after the media spotlight goes away, sometimes for years. And it’s not just the effects on the eight students injured in the shooting, several of whom still face long recoveries. It’s the effects on their families, and on the students and teachers still traumatized from being on campus, the emergency workers who cared for the victims, the police officers who engaged the gunman.
The event is still affecting UCC staff, currently planning a renovation of the building where the shooting took place, and for members of the greater Douglas County community, many of whom are strategizing on how to prevent similar occurrences, and how to react if one occurs.
Emergency management planners recognize that there are three stages of crisis. The immediate stage is focused on managing the crisis: setting up communications, establishing channels between first responders, and helping victims.
The second stage, lasting a short time, looks ahead a few days. In Roseburg, that meant accepting help from outside sources, making plans to reopen the campus, and providing continuing help for victims.
The last stage — long-term recovery — is, in many ways, the most difficult. Outside help has gone home, and it’s up to the community to identify and accomplish the steps in the recovery process.
CHART steps up
In the immediate aftermath of the UCC crisis, a group of people recognized this hard fact and stepped up to begin the work of long-term community recovery. The Community Healing and Response Team (CHART) was formed just days after the incident.
“We weren’t trying to build things back to where they were before Oct. 1, but rather orient ourselves to a new and better community,” says Meredith Bliss, who serves as facilitator of the group. “It’s all about how to take community and use it as a catalyst to create something even stronger than before.”
The team represents a cross-section of the community. It includes UCC employees and students, nonprofit representatives, businesspeople and members of the public. For the first several months after the shooting, the group met frequently to share information on what was happening throughout the county and strategize on how best to aid in recovery.
An evolving role
As needs changed, so did the group’s role. “We met weekly in the immediate aftermath, then biweekly, and now monthly,” Bliss says. “The group became an information-sharing and convening space. There is a real role and real value for that.”
Today, as the role of CHART lessens, a leadership committee established with the support of the Governor’s Office is taking point on community recovery. Many members also belonged to CHART.
CHART was the logical place for the governor’s office to connect with when she appointed Jamie Damon, from the State of Oregon Regional Solutions office, to support local recovery efforts.
A smaller executive group, called The Leadership Council (TLC), was created with the authority to develop funding proposals to government agencies.
TLC’s first task is to request funds from a U.S. Department of Justice Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance program to reimburse Douglas County agencies for costs incurred as a result of the tragedy. The program also can provide funds to support the community’s recovery.
TLC is working with a technical advisor from the U.S. Department of Justice to develop the funding request.
In addition, the group is charged with identifying resources from the state Legislature and other funders. A cross-section of key decision-makers comprise the group, including first responders, UCC leadership, elected officials, foundation representatives, civic and faith leaders, tribal leaders, and medical professionals.