"We are all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing." ~ Charles Bukowski
One on One with Militiaman Spokesman at the Bundy Stronghold
Reviewer Magazine goes to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Standoff near Burns, Oregon.
By: Sarah Shafer @SASzilla
January 9, 2016 (6:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.)
It’s been a week since the militiamen gathered at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Armed with six-shooters on their hips and AK-47’s strapped over their shoulders, their refusal to leave the federally owned land has sparked a brush-fire of local opinion and national media spin. Some of this comes second-hand from reporters that have never been to Burns. Some of it comes from concerned citizens whose families have worked on the very land being disputed. Reviewer Magazine sits down for more than just soundbites with spokesman LaVoy Finicum, long time Arizona rancher and friend and supporter of the now notorious leader of the occupation, Ammon Bundy.
It was dark and snowing when I arrived at the at the scene. Most of the media had gone home, and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge appeared like any other defiantly warm and quiet structure you might see against the Burns, Oregon snowscape. LaVoy Finicum saw me through an office window and gestured me inside. He stood to shake my hand and offered me the chair opposite him, even though the chair was already full.
“Pardon me,” LaVoy said to the man in the chair, “I already promised this little lady that I would talk with her. I did promise her first if you don’t mind putting this on hold.”
The man moved without a word. Leaning over a tall filing cabinet, he quietly folded his arms in front of himself and propped his head up with his hands to listen for me to finish.
“Thank you for your time. I’m sure you’ve talked to a few people already today,” I said.
“Yes. One or two,” said Finicum.
“What do you think of how you’ve been portrayed in the media?”
“Honestly, we’ve been a little too busy here to really sit down in front of a TV,” Finicum said. “I didn’t have a chance to tell my family I was going to be here. I didn’t know until I came to leave some flowers for the Bundys, and I got the call from Ammon that we needed to do something. Someone mentioned that they did a skit of us on Saturday Night Live, ‘Y’all Qaeda,’ or something, but I haven’t seen it. Of course, my daughter saw me on the news and told everyone: ‘Dad took over a federal building!'”
“So you weren’t apart of a prior plan in place to take over the refuge?” I said.
“No. Most of us came here unprepared,” said Finicum, “One of the guys only had time to grab one change of clothes.”
“In the Federal Land and Policy Management Act, doesn’t it mandate that the federal government must consider ceding land back to the state if such an exchange would be in the better interest of the public?” I said.
Finicum said, “It’s more than that. They’re required. It’s mandatory. Now let’s look back to the history, all right. …Once a territory reached a population of I think sixty thousand people, at that point they would form it into a state. Now, I may be wrong on that number, so don’t quote me on that. So, at the moment that it became a state, the lands were to be ceded to the state to be disposed of. So the first states, for about the first four states right up until about Ohio, that’s what happened. But after awhile it became slow. They [the federal government] still ceded it to the states, but have you ever noticed, if you look at a map of federal land going from east to west. In the east there’s hardly any federal land. You get further and further west and there is more and more, till, like my county is ninety percent federal land. This county is fifty percent federal land… Governments tend to like to grow in power and size. They see the land and resources and they get slower and slower at ceding it back to the states. And pretty soon they say, ‘Oh, no, it’s ours, but you could have got some money off of the revenue had you been productive.’ Its called PILT, Payment in Lieu of Taxes… Really it’s Pennies in Lieu of Trillions. That’s really what it is. And so they at that point say, ‘No, the land is ours.’ And they have no constitutional authority to do that. And again, it has real impact on real people and we’ve seen it this week with the Hammond family.”
“We use to complain about taxation without representation, this is control without representation.”
“So how do you think turning the federal land here over to state authorities will help local Oregonians?” I said.
“That’s a good question,” said Finicum, “You have to ask yourself where does the wealth come from? Where did the materials come from? It comes from the resources of the earth. The wealth is generated from the resources of the land. So when you block off access to the land you seal seal the lands resources away for the people. Harney county used to be the wealthiest in the state of Oregon. Do you know where it is now? It’s the poorest. What happened? The Federal government came in. What did they do? They begin to grab and seize the resources of the land. The timber industry was seized and shut down. The ranchers have been suppressed. So when they grab the land and start to move the people off from it then the people can’t cultivate it or prune it to have resources come up. So the people become very poor. And so what happens, you need to realize is that the loyalty a lot of times flows from the direction that the money comes from. So, if people begin to get hooked on because there’s no jobs or land, no mining, or logging, or ranching then they look for what? Government jobs. Government benefits, or government welfare. When money begins to flow down from a federal agency or federal power to the people then their loyalties become this way. You see, getting a check without working is a horrible thing for a person. When a person is out there working his ranch, working his farm, working the forest as a lumberjack, or in the lumber mills, then there’s a sense of worth because he’s doing something of worth. And then he’s producing for the county and increasing the tax base. And then, guess what? Where’s the money flowing? It’s flowing from the people into the county. So now you have a relationship between the county and its citizens, and you have a good relationship instead of the money flowing down to the federal government. Where does the federal government get its money anyway? By taking it from the people or inflating the currency. So the wealth of the nation is increased. The welfare and the mental health of the people is increased. The other way, it all seems to do the opposite. I don’t know, is that an answer?”
“Do you believe that when the federal government charges people to use the land they’ve confiscated, that it is tantamount to taxation without representation?” I said.
Finicum said, “Well this is what we have, in Article 1, Section 8, in the United States constitution clearly defines what lands the federal government can own and control. Okay? Our founding fathers came from a country and under a rule where it was, what? The king’s forest, the king’s highway. You know, you don’t cut the king’s wood. They knew that if you did just what I said, that if you control the land and the resources, then you control the people… How much land does the federal government claim they control right now? One third of the land mass.”
“Now lets think about it even closer to home so you can better understand this,” he said, “On my ranch I have my cows and my grazing room. A bureaucrat behind a desk, a federal bureaucrat, who is not elected by me, is not under the power of recall, he can write a statute… He can just do that. He can just write that, okay? Now that has the force and effect of law. …Where does the power come from? Think about it, this is a little bit of a trick question. The power comes from the barrel of a gun. I have this huge pasture, about four thousand or five thousand acres, I’m not sure how big it is, but I’ve never grazed it off. In 6 years I’ve never been able to put cows out there because the only water source out there is a reservoir that has to collect rain water. Well, when I had a great summer and the feed was tall and green and the water flowed over enough that I had water in the reservoir, I said, ‘I’m going to put my cows in early before that water is dry and I can’t graze it off.’ But the bureaucrat said no. He said, ‘You can’t go in there until October fifteenth.’ I said, ‘But there’s water there now and the grass is green.’ …They’ve got the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] ranger armed with all the military equipment necessary, and he’ll come out and say, ‘You can’t.’ And if I get contrary, they can force it by the barrel of a gun, and where will they haul me? Into a federal court. Neither that ranger, or that bureaucrat, nor malfeasance of the court are under the power of recall of the state or the country or me as a rancher. They aren’t accountable to me, I haven’t elected them, and they rule over the land, over my livelihood, and so, we use to complain about taxation without representation, this is control without representation.”
At this point I note that the static nature of such bureaucratic laws actually go against the purpose of The Federal Land and Policy Management Act. Specifically, Section 102, (2), where it clearly states: The national interest will be best realized if the public lands and their resources are periodically and systematically inventoried and their present and future use is projected through a land use planning process coordinated with other Federal and State planning efforts.
I said, “What do you want to say to your supporters around the country, Mr. Finicum? What would you suggest that they do? Do you believe we should stop conceding to their will?”
Finicum said, “People are becoming disenfranchised fron the government. …Whether it’s on the right side of the spectrum or the left side of the spectrum, we’re on this side of the spectrum, occupying a federal building. We’re not burning things down. We’re trying to preserve and build. We want to be very careful so we can pass this resource center off to Harney County. So we’re trying to take good care of it. …Let me be very clear. I believe in government. I believe in the federal government. We need it. But we need it to be law abiding.”
“Well, I think that’s all I need. Thank you very much for your time, sir” I said. LaVoy shook my hand one last time, made sure he had my name and the name of my associate correct, and nodded farewell.
Friend Or Foe: Holding Ground At The Bundy Stronghold
One cold January day Reviewer Magazine went to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff near Burns, Oregon.
by Sarah Shafer @SASzilla
January 9, 2016. With the arrival of another uninvited civilian armed force during the day and a closed meeting with state legislators after dark, Ammon Bundy deals with a shift change a week into his armed occupation of Federal property.
“No one else goes in, got that?,” said the man in a black ski mask and camouflage ensemble. The second guard at the entrance to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge shifts the AK-47 on his shoulder to get a handle on his walkie-talkie.
“No one else gets in but us and Jon Ritzheimer. What are they doing out there anyway? They’re suppose to be helping with the cease fire.”
The man in the ski mask listens to something gargle from his walkie-talkie.
“Listen,” he says to a young man strapped with the AK-47 (his name was Will, I remember from when I first entered the compound), “We’re going to go grab gas and a few supplies and go see what the hell they’re doing out there.”
It’s pitch black at this point. I know this conversation isn’t meant for me but this is the only way in and out, so it’s the way I’m going.
The guards finally see me emerge into the small area lit by their campfire beside the truck blocking the road. I don’t know it yet, but later I realize the guards are talking about the day’s new addition to the occupation. A few hours before my arrival, another group of armed civilians called the Pacific Patriot Network (PPN) and the Three-Percenters, barged onto the scene here in Burns adding to the confusion. According to a statement released by the group, while they don’t support Bundy’s occupation of Federal land, they do: “Wish to establish a safety perimeter of protection for the occupiers so as to prevent a Waco-style situation from unfolding during this peaceful occupation. The primary intention of this outer-ring is to bear witness to any aggressive action initiated by federal agencies or the occupiers, and to encourage an open dialogue towards a peaceful resolution. [They] will serve as a neutral third-party intermediary to prevent bloodshed.”
The group’s president may have stood up with Ammon Bundy’s friend and supporter, LaVoy Finicum, in front of the press earlier in the day. However, by the time the sun went down, it was obvious that communications were strained, and, at least for the time being, the PPN and Three-Percenters would not be welcome to return to the wildlife refuge serving as the Bundy compound.
Sent down unaccompanied by the front guard, I was told I could “talk to anyone that would talk” to me. Beyond that, there was no instruction. It was snowing, dark, and the men seemed more inclined toward trudging on with their work than speaking to the media. A lone cameraman and Julie Turkewitz of The New York Times stood with me unguarded and anxious between the building of the wildlife refuge compound as we awaited further instruction.
Ammond Bundy appeared from around a corner with three of his children clamoring around him. I stepped back before one long-haired little girl holding a blanket could run into me.
“Mr. Bundy,” I said, shaking the man’s hand.
“Who are you with?” he asked each of the three of us in turn.
“I’m from a local independent magazine called Reviewer Magazine,” I said.
“You’re local? Where are you from?”
“Eugene,” I said, “Nice to meet you.”
“You, too,” Bundy said, and looked at his son at his side. Both resorted to putting their hands in their pockets, it seemed, unconsciously. It appeared as if he had run into us unexpectedly.
“This is my boy,” Bundy said, “He hasn’t got to see his dad in a week, have you?”
The boy looks down at the ground so that his cowboy hat completely hides his face.
“How old are you?” says the reporter from The New York Times. The boy makes a start, stops, and stutters.
She says, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
“Well,” said Bundy, “how many of you are there?”
The little boy looks up at us from under the brim of his hat with a big smile that is missing teeth.
“Well, I’m twelve. There’s six of us,” he says
The lone cameraman moves off to record the smaller children swirling around the frozen yard.
“Who are you looking for?” Bundy looks from me to the New York Times reporter.
I say, “Are you available?”
Mr. Bundy shakes his head.
“I have a meeting with state legislators in a few minutes in the conference building.”
“State legislators? Who do you mean?” I say. Immediately, I wonder if he could be meeting with local government to try and resolve their differences and his grievances.
“Is that a closed meeting?,” asks the other reporter.
“Yes, it’s closed,” says Bundy, “It’s called The Coalition of Western States. They’re legislators from over eleven western states.”
Before I can ask Bundy a followup question about the role of the coalition in this occupation of Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge, and if he means to try to find a resolution to the situation with them, a pickup truck pulls up to him and rolls down their passenger window. He and the female passenger exchange a few words. Then Bundy starts giving out hand shakes all around as he says goodbye.
“Nice to meet you,” he says.
“You too, sir,” I say.
The gaggle of children walks behind their father as he follows the pickup truck towards one of the buildings down the way.
Online, the Coalition of Western States defines themselves as: “legislators, statesman and patriots united to stand against unconstitutional actions against United States citizens… formed after the Bundy Standoff in 2014.” I wouldn’t know until the next day about the nature of this closed meeting, and that in fact, Nevada and Oregon state representatives were personally meeting with Bundy there.
It’s at this point, after Bundy has walked away, that LaVoy Finicum sees me through an office window and gestures me to join him inside.
“You ask about taxation without representation, this is control without representation,” says Finicum.
The 55-year-old rancher and I go on to talk for well over a half an hour. He tells me his beliefs on how he thinks turning Federal land over to the state authorities will help local Oregonians. He tells me also about the flood of uncontested, bureaucratic laws that he believes prevents men from using common sense to steward public lands, the static nature of these laws, and how restrictions could be regularly re-evaluated to be more effective instead of enforced “at the barrel of a gun.”
Check back for the full interview with LaVoy Finicum at the Bundy compound.
Portland Oregon is the epicenter of the world’s reseach on the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV. Dr. Louis J. Picker, head of the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), and his team have been the belle of the ball on World Aids Day since 2013, when the team cured SIV in a number of rhesus monkeys that are still disease-free today. “The vaccine stopped the infection from spreading and then cleared it from the bodies of half of the monkeys it was tested on,” Picker said in an OHSU press blog, “And we’re quite confident that this vaccine approach can work exactly the same way against HIV in humans.”
SIV, or simian immunodeficiency virus, is the equivalent of HIV in monkeys, making our cousins the perfect research subject surrogates in the search for a HIV cure. According to a report in Health News,”Picker also announced… trials to test a tuberculosis vaccine on monkeys, based on the design of the successful SIV one.”
December first marked the twenty-seventh annual World AIDS Day. Dr. Picker has re-set the bar for HIV research again this year, reinvigorating hope for a cure around the globe. While there are many reasons why HIV has been an elusive adversary, the Picker team has revealed an important strategy from the virus’s playbook. Their discovery has shed a new understanding on how the disease has been able to hide from the body’s security guard cells called CD8 “killer” T cells. With this knowledge, researchers may be able to find a way to reach HIV wherever it goes, and proceed to destroy it.
Creating a vaccine is the process of stimulating the body’s defences.
One of Picker’s colleagues at OHSU, and leader of his own vaccine development team, Dr. Jonah B. Sacha, and healthcare professional and Africa traveler, Dan Sorenson, agree to speak with me on the subject. Their correspondence reveals the real face of HIV, as well as the science and difficulties that researchers face today from development to patent, production, and beyond.
Creating a vaccine is the process of stimulating the body’s defenses with a weakened or dead strain of the target virus. Once humans are infected with it, just as with any chemical reaction, the body tries to even out the equation by creating antibodies to destroy the virus as a response. Vaccines are developed for HIV all the time. The issue is the genetic variation of its progeny. By the time a vaccine can be manufactured to combat one HIV strain, the virus had already copied itself thousands of times. The vaccine will be able to destroy some of the copies, but others are different enough from the original that the it will have no effect. “One of the biggest stumbling blocks to a HIV vaccine is the sequence diversity of the virus,” says Dr. Sacha.
Experiments with animals, monkeys and mice in particular, presents another hurdle for scientists. “Is it hard to get results helpful to humans from your research on animals?” I ask Sacha.
“A rule of thumb in the field,” he says, “is that mice lie and monkeys exaggerate. With that said, a lot of big advancements have come from monkeys — Tenofovir, one of the biggest antiretrovirals, for instance. The humanized mouse model has a lot of issues and really isn’t a great model for HIV. Given how genetically and physiologically similar monkeys are to humans, they are the preferable model.”
I ask, “How will developing a cure for HIV be the same or different from what Dr. Picker has achieved with his vaccine?”
Says Sacha, “If creating a vaccine is scaling Mt. Everest on earth, a cure is scaling Mount Olympus on Mars. The field has been trying to create a HIV vaccine for thirty-five years. Curing HIV is even more daunting. Frankly, I am unsure it is even possible as it parallels cancer very closely. We can get people into remission, but never really say “cured of cancer.” It is the same issue with HIV. As the saying goes, absence of detection is not the same as detection of absence.”
“Can you expound on Dr. Picker’s latest discovery of what he calls a HIV ‘sanctuary’?”
“The B cell follicle is a region of the lymph node where you essentially need a key to enter. Infected CD4 helper T cells (Tfh) have the key and thus can enter the site. The problem is that the CD8 killer T cells do not have the key to enter. Thus, infected Tfh can enter the B follicle and remain safe from being killed by the killer CD8 T cells,” Dr. Sacha says.
Changing the subject to research politics, the infamous CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli in particular, I ask Dr. Sacha if scientists can help safeguard against people like Shkreli by choosing to work in publicly funded facilities instead of privately owned companies. Earlier this year, Shkreli realized his company held a monopoly on a drug meant to help HIV patients called Daraprim. Taking advantage of the situation, the CEO incited pubic outrage across the country by raising the price for the drug five-thousand percent.
“Sadly,” Dr. Sacha says, “once the patent is licensed, it is out of our [researcher’s] hands. That is just the way the system is set up. Martin Shkreli has no ethics.”
Dan Sorenson picks up the conversation just outside of the OHSU laboratory doors where Dr. Sacha bids adieu. As well as being an EMT and ER nurse for over fifteen years at Hamilton Montana’s Marcus Daily Hospital, Dan also spent time in the African province of Zimbabwe a few years after the first cases of HIV became known in the U.S.. “The differences in Africa versus here are most prominent when it comes to perception and approach to treatment. Here in the U.S., it’s a BIG deal,” Sorenson says, “It’s a death sentence and carries with it such a negative stigma. You are automatically considered a carrier of disease and questions always seem to swarm about your sexuality and your possible drug use and just how perverted are you if you have HIV.”
Most would agree that this paradigm has existed since the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) decided to note the “homosexual” orientation of the first reported case subjects to contract “cellular immune-dysfunction… acquired through sexual contact” in 1981.
Today, while American history can agree that HIV and AIDS have certainly effected the gay community, the CDC’s most recently available statistics for HIV in the U.S. claim that “homosexual and bisexual men represented only 54% of people living with HIV in 2011.”
One young woman shows it doesn’t take being homosexual, Charlie Sheen, Freddie Mercury, or in Africa to be affected by HIV. Going only by the handle Skinned on an online forum, she posted the following about her HIV diagnosis:
I got HIV at 17. Last year, actually. Last year, I also first lost my virginity. I got HIV from being ignorant and selfish. I just thought this carnival worker was cute and he thought I was cute and it turned out he had HIV. He called me a few months later and told me. I knew I had it. I got tested twice positive and now I am supposed to be taking these enormous pills but I CAN’T take them. I really am unable to… I’m also afraid the medications they give me have worse side effects than they do help. Liver damage? May lower your CD4 count? WTF? That’s like depression medication. ‘May cause suicidal thoughts.’ Anyway, I don’t want to die painfully. I want to die calm in my sleep beside my husband. I hope I die of old age before I die of AIDS.”
“Here we keep our HIV patients alive as long as possible,” Dan Sorenson says, “The medications are very expensive but have shown that they are quite effective in prolonging life. In Africa there does not exist the wealth. The most significant difference, in my opinion, is in how our cultures see HIV. Mind you I was in Africa in 1991, but I don’t believe it has changed much since. The attitude there seems to be ‘Well, we’re going to die anyway because Africa is a tough place.’ The people who put us up said their best guess was that one-hundred percent of the Zimbabwe military personnel were HIV positive. They don’t believe in prophylactics. The routine for the military person in Africa is to work during the day and at night go out and have multiple sexual partners without concern for the risk. Their culture is not the same as ours and concerns over the spread of disease do not prevail over the concerns for ‘pleasure while we are here.’ At one point I asked my host why the natives that lived on his property had so many kids (usually fifteen or more per family). He said that he had asked several the same question and the answer was always ‘That way if a bunch of them die it isn’t a big deal.”‘
Looking at the statistics, it can appear there will never be an indemnity against pain or loss. They span across cultural boundaries, sexual orientation, and race. World AIDS Day calls on us to remember the needless suffering of others and reconsider how to traverse the obstacles that separate the present from a disease-free future. While the road may end in Africa with a cure, the cutting edge research being done by the OHSU vaccine development teams here in Oregon are the real front lines in the world’s battle against HIV. Until that time when this war is won, surely it will be here and against such as the works of Dr. Louis Picker and Dr. Jonah Sacha that the world will measure the progress it’s made.
One Small Oregon Town Deals With America’s Growing Trend Of Gun Violence
In the aftermath of the tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, the test every student needs to prepare for.
It’s something we all grew up with.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
The fire alarm would echo through the school hallways over the intercom. Depending on the class, there would either be a collective sigh throughout the room as we began our choreographed shuffle, or eyes would flutter to attention, scoping the room for a classmate with whom to pass this brief reprieve from monotony. Undoubtedly a teacher would tell everyone to leave their belongings and instruct the students where they were expected to meet outside the building. Once outside and corralled to the designated “safe zone,” roll call would be taken to make sure no one was left behind in the building. Simple, right?
My high school participated in several versions of this kind of emergency protocol. We also rehearsed what to do should an earthquake or intruder threaten the school. How helpful these exercises can be is debatable. Being inundated with the same kind of Pavlovian association our whole young lives, the fire alarm bell or the call for a lockdown, is it really necessary to repeat the same exercises as an adult in college? Surely these lessons transmigrated with the students to their higher institutions of learning, or is it possible they need to be continued, if not upgraded? College campuses have multiple buildings and a multitude of not only full, but part-time students to coordinate. The POP POP of a gun going off at school will certainly elicit a different response in them then the sound of the bell we were all raised with.
On October first of this year, nine people lost their lives, and more were injured by a single gunman on the grounds of the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Oregon. This shooter, Chris Harper Mercer, 26, later took his own life after police arrived.
According to a thorough study done by the Strategic Management Department at the University of Quebec, in over 85% of school shootings, the attacker is affiliated with the school. Chris Harper Mercer, a student enrolled at UCC this term, adds himself to this ghastly statistic. Aspects of his personal life, as appropriated by an article in The New York Times, reveal that among his interests were the methods employed by the IRA, and a fervent belief, if not feeling of personal obligation, to exercise his Second Amendment rights, made evident by his personal arsenal of at least 13 firearms. Whatever fueled Mercer’s sudden violent break, it’s possible more may be revealed once his as-of-yet undisclosed manifesto is made public.
Until then, if sharing his collection of weaponry with his mother, getting discharged by the army before he could complete basic training, or too little tit as a baby was a predisposition for becoming a killer, no one can know sure.
What is obvious, is that school shootings have become a horrible trend recurring at an outstanding rate over the last 20 years. Searching for solutions or something tangible to blame, I wonder why places of education everywhere shouldn’t review and instruct students about these horrible but possible scenarios. While a difficult notion to swallow, school shootings are no longer a nightmare experienced by an unlucky few, rather they are the reality for whole communities. Carrie Hilliker-Neet, a Roseburg resident, mother of a UCC student herself, Samarah Nichole Neet, and relative of the victim, Rebecka Carnes, writes to Reviewer Magazine, “Being such a small community, we know each other intimately. A fear of the unknown has overwhelmed many. On the surface we look strong but under it we are still screaming why.”
I polled 31 students all currently enrolled at either Umpqua Community College, Lane Community College’s main or downtown campus, or the University of Oregon. When asked to recall how their schools prepared them to respond to emergencies on campus, nearly all the students shared similar responses.
The nine UCC students who participated in the poll were all were on campus the day of the shooting save Samarah Nichole Neet, her mother thankful that, “By the grace of God we both overslept.” Each of the students answered with an awe-stricking “No” when asked if their school had ever prepared them in any way for emergencies on campus. While most of the students requested I omit their names, one woman expanded on the subject, sharing, “It was a big issue after the shooting that no one was ever given any instruction on what to do in case of an emergency. Also the emergency procedures were never used. They [Umpqua Community College] have an emergency system at the school, but no one used it. I’m not sure if staff didn’t use it because they were not educated on it or because they just didn’t use it. It was a lock down system and it was not activated. I’m sure their thought was that nothing would ever happen here.”
Over at the University of Oregon, the story is much the same. Hailey Pratt-Stibich, a student in her junior year studying physics, both long in hair and long in legs, revealing, “I can’t remember any kind of instruction being given on the subject, but I had orientation three years ago,” and, “I’m not really the person to ask about what to do.”
I asked Haily if her school has at least reviewed safety strategy since the Roseburg shooting, “I haven’t heard anything like that,” she answers, “No.”
Andrea Cline, a full-time student studying at LCC’s main campus, answers the same questions I posed to the students before her: “Has what to do if there’s ever an emergency on campus ever come up in your classes at LCC, or been a part of any information you’ve received there?”
Andrea, who returned to school two years ago after a ten-year hiatus, strokes her yellow lab, Milo, and tells me what I’ve come to expect as a typical response to this poll. “No,” she tells me, “but I had orientation a few years ago. I don’t know if things have changed since then. All I know is the school has everyone’s number, and we’re suppose to receive emergency text messages if anything happens.”
A second-year student at LCC’s downtown campus, Mark Luden, is the only student I talked to who had both received some kind of information on safe zones in his school building and who had participated in at least one kind of drill there. However, according to Luden, the drill performed was a simple fire drill practiced only last term, not when he started school two years ago, and the information on safe zones was to be found only in an information packet he had been given.
Apparently, safety education and preparation amnesia has found its way into U of O faculty as well. A professor at the university who wishes only to be referred to as F, retired just this summer. He begins our telephone conversation listing his credentials for me, telling me of the 20 years he taught at the university and how in that time he rose to be the head of his own department.
“While you were at the U of O, how did the school prepare students and staff for emergencies that might break out on campus?” I inquire.
“It was not really clear,” he recalls, hesitantly searching his memory to ensure accuracy. “Only staff and student workers participated in any kind of drill I was a part of, and even then, there was no discussion of violent attacks.”
I let F continue, asking, “If students weren’t a part of the drills, what did the faculty do to prepare the students, or educate them on the matter?”
“I don’t think anything was conveyed to them. I taught classes and safety procedures were never something we went over on the first day of school. It was never a part of any of the information packets I went over with the students. There wasn’t even mention of natural disasters.”
F seems as surprised by the administrative oversights our conversation was revealing as I am. “As a faculty member, what were you trained to do in case of any kind of emergency?” I press on.
“We knew the emergency numbers to call, but it wasn’t clear how to react,” he replied. “That really wasn’t part of the training. Only if someone pulled the fire alarm would I know to do something, to evacuate. And then it was just assumed the staff would assist the students. Otherwise it would leave everyone for themselves.”
Further findings in their study of school shootings, the Strategic Management Department at the University of Quebec states that it’s this very thing: “In many of the school shooting events that were investigated, the root cause was somehow related to some ambiguities and or omissions in the hiring/firing/evaluation and promotion policies of the school involved. These policies – that were rather vague and lacked rigor – have contributed to creating frustration among the members of the organization and thus have induced in the organization a vulnerability to violence-related hazards.”
After my interview with F, I start to think this obvious patchwork of policy may be cause for alarm. With both part-time and full-time students falling through the cracks, and infrequently reminded of emergency procedures, if at all.
I sit down with Sergeant Glass of the Oregon State Police Department and Oregon SWAT team at a delicatessen in Springfield, The Lucky Lizard.
I shrug, trying to think where to begin. “What can the police really do to prevent these kind of events, especially when the students and faculty are the real first-responders?” I ask Sergeant Glass, in regards to the October first UCC shooting. With his shaved head and broad cop physique, Sergeant Glass starts numbering off counter-measures as concisely as a general would over a war-map discussing strategy.
“The first line of defense,” he begins, “in these situations has to be the students and staff. There has to be some kind of training. The police can only respond. A person’s morality or mental health, we can’t fix that. We can only respond and help prevent through education. I know the Oregon State Police or the Salem Police have been known to give presentations at schools upon request.”
I continue, “I know once you reach the scene, a lot of damage has already been done. What can students do while waiting for SWAT or campus police to protect themselves?”
“If you aren’t sure you can safely flee the scene then barricade yourself inside a room, preferably, or hide anywhere you can. If you’re in the room with the shooter then you have two options. If you are far away you can try to hide or escape depending on the situation, or even look for a way to defend yourself. If you are closer and being shot at, one tactic would be to have everyone in the room charge the shooter. A lot of people think this is a sure way to get shot, but then so does just standing there if you’re being shot at. Just look at what happened with the train shooting in France. Two guys, marines, as a matter of fact, rushed the shooter and subdued him before he could kill anyone (HERE). Everybody rushing the assailant at once has the possibility of startling him, for one, and it could also overload his senses so that he won’t be able to focus or find a target to shoot at.”
“I had no idea,” I interject, thinking myself how counter-intuitive the idea might sound to people at first, but ultimately understanding the logic.
The sergeant and SWAT veteran doesn’t hesitate in his answer. “In the state of Oregon you have to be 21 to get a concealed weapons permit. If, say, a teacher, has had the right training it’s possible firearms in the hands of the right people at a school could be a valid second line of defense. Some students have military backgrounds, like the men on the train in the France shooting, or Chris Mintz, the army vet at Umpqua, that tried to take down the shooter there. Another option is to allow students like Chris, that meet a certain criteria and have been through documented training with firearms, to be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on campus. But only those known and approved by the school and with the appropriate training.”
I thank Sergeant Glass for his time, realizing that school shootings have become a real threat, not just a few people’s nightmare. The needless loss of Sarena Moore, Rebecka Carnes, Kim Dietz, Lucas Eibel, Lucero Alcaraz, Quinn Cooper, Jason Johnson, Treven Anspach, and Lawrence Levine will not soon be forgotten by the Roseburg community. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to make sure school shootings never happen again. However, whether pro-gun control or not, all the students I polled agreed that they had yet to be thoroughly educated on the basic emergency procedures employed by their schools. While it’s appalling that a place of education should need to adapt such precautions, they might be worth their employ if it’s possible to have even one less name listed under the headline of a similar tragedy.