October 6, 2015

The Umpqua College Shooting: One More in a Sea of Vigils

In the photo gallery of the latest school shooting rampage, its always there….

Along with the SWAT team storming campus; students in shock being rushed to safely; parents and friends waiting in panic in the cordoned-off parking lot; the medical update at the local hospital; numbered yellow markers dotting the ground where the assailant was killed by authorities — unless he killed himself first; Facebook photos of the assailant; the killer’s apartment and the paramilitary presence there, too … there are the candlelight vigils.

The majority of those vigil images, like the one above from Umpqua Community College last Thursday, consist of close-ups, emotional close-ups of students and members of the campus community hugging, crying, holding hands or praying as they loft candles in solidarity, vowing: to remember, to uphold higher ideals, even to be the change.

For that reason, I wanted you to actually see Nichole Zamarripa, this Umpqua student. In the aftermath of the rampage, students like Nichole become the face of these damaged communities and a window for us to feel it, too. If the close ups are plentiful, however, most of the photo galleries will also contain at least one long view — the image that captures the scale of the outpouring. As dozens, maybe hundreds of heads, and circles of fire, bob in the darkness, captions typically refer to the assembly as “a sea.”

How does one approach the imagery of the school massacre when the last one was already “beyond,” and the latest one, immediately locating and wrenching the badly-frayed rope in the pit of your stomach, is just “beyond beyond”? Where my eyes fell, moving from Nichole’s image, were into these “seas.” I found myself swimming, almost drowning in example after example, including Virginia in 2007, Newtown, in 2012, Arapahoe in 2013, and Reynolds High School and UCSB, just over a year ago.

Then the grouping sorted itself out:

Radford University for Virginia Tech, 2007

Reynolds High School, 2014


UCSB 2014


Penn State (for Newtown Elementary), 2012.


Arapahoe High School, 2013

Maybe it came together this way because, just like in real life, the tragedy burns brightly and the people suffering are identifiable. For an instant even, they are all of us and we are all of them. But then, as the hours turn into days,  it becomes that much further and fainter until it just fades away.

(photo 1: Rich Pedroncelli/AP. caption: Umpqua Community College student Nichole Zamarripa, right, is consoled during a candle light vigil for those killed during a fatal shooting at the school, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. photo 2: Scott Olson, Getty Images. caption: Radford University students hold a candlelight vigil in memory of the students and staff who were killed at nearby Virginia Tech in Monday’s shootings April 19, 2007 in Radford, Virginia. Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old South Korean undergraduate student in his senior year at Virginia Tech, went on a shooting rampage with two handguns in a dormitory building and Norris Hall killing 32 people before killing himself. photo 3: Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian. June 17, 2014. caption: A large contingency of spiritual and community leaders joined with the public to hold a candlelight vigil Tuesday night at Reynolds High School. The purpose of “A Service for Hope and Healing” was to provide a venue for support and a way forward following the campus shooting where freshman Jared Padgett shot and killed fellow classmate Emilio Hoffman before committing suicide. A teacher was also injured. photo 4: Robyn Beckrobyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images. caption: Students gathered for a candlelight vigil on the University of California Santa Barbara campus May 24, 2014 to remember those killed Friday night during a rampage in nearby Isla Vista. photo 5: Shawn Inglima. caption: Students Announce Vigil to Honor Newtown Victims. Penn State vigil announcement. December 15, 2012. photo 6: Molly Hendrickson/7NEWS. caption: Sea of support for Claire Davis. From: IMAGES: Arapahoe High School shooting. 2013.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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