I had a post already lined up for today — I tend to run at least a week ahead in posting outfit photos — but I have delayed that post until tomorrow. I feel I have to get something out today, to make any kind of sense of a terrible thing that happened yesterday in my community. Yet another shooter incident happened yesterday, one close to home, at the second largest high school in Oregon — a school located only a short distance from my college. The news broke yesterday morning, while I was having a meeting with a fellow faculty member. After our meeting — all smiles, culminating in “have a great summer!” remarks — I checked my work email and read the announcement, that our college would stay open and provide support for the community during this tragic incident.
I was in shock. And as I looked down at what I was wearing — a bright floral skirt — I remember instantly feeling ridiculous. Here I was dressed in a bright, cheery outfit with playful pattern-mixing, and wearing bright pink lipstain — and I felt so loud and at odds with my external and internal states of being. That might seem so silly, but that’s how I felt.
I debated about taking outfit photos today, but I went ahead with doing so. Why? I guess partly because I wanted some sense of normalcy at the end of this day. Because I tend to associate big events in my life with what I was wearing at the time of those events, and I wanted a record of this. To not forget. Instead, to remember the small ways my community immediately came together in support of each other.
Right after the news broke of the nearby incident, it was my turn to staff the Reference Desk at our college library. My colleagues and I pulled together info about the nearest places for families to gather, along with help numbers for staff to call, just in case. Our college counselors made the rounds to check in with each department.
I remember the subdued tone of the students in the library — we were pretty full, as usual, especially as it’s finals week — and how unnaturally quiet it felt. Everyone had a phone, tablet, laptop — or was sitting next to someone who had one — tuned into the latest updates. The feeling of uncertainty, worry, sadness was palpable. Everything felt surreal, even this sense of uneasy quiet.
Details: Floral skirt: eShakti, last spring / Grey argyle t-shirt: Gift from my mom, old / Denim jacket: Kohl’s, old / Pearl drop earrings: Bridesmaid gift, Texas, old / Grey flats: DKNY via Macy’s, fall 2011
Everyone was reaching for connections. Work colleagues mentioned children, friends, church members, and other relatives who they knew at the school. Students mentioned friends who had texted them that they were okay. Teachers emailed students enrolled in our dual-credit high school/college classes. My husband texted me to check in. I mentioned to people that when my husband’s parents lived in Oregon, they and my husband lived in a house only a few blocks away from the school. My friend and colleague, Stephanie, and I stared at each other, aware that we pass by the school every day on our way to work, that the event happened only a short time after we drove by there together that very morning. Even in our quiet, dazed states, we were all seeking connections, human connections, stories that bound us together in a common experience.
And at the end of the day, when my husband and I finished taking these photos after work, a friendly neighborhood cat trotted out to say hello. Another connection. I was comforted by this brief, uncomplicated contact between two beings.
So that is what I choose to remember. The moments that we still reach out to one another in times of senseless, horrible tragedy.
This is my community. My heart is full and fragile and goes out to the victims and families of those affected, no matter how great or how small, by this tragic shooting. I hope you will join me in this effort.