Saturday, October 10, 2015

Active Shooter

Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon (
This week’s Cemetery Traveler blog post has nothing (directly) to do with cemeteries, but everything to do with death. A week prior to me writing this (October 1, 2015), a crazed gunman opened fire on students in a classroom at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Nine people were killed and then the gunman, Mr. Chris Harper-Mercer, killed himself.

A couple days later I’m freaked out when my kindergartner excitedly tells me: "We're having an “Active Shooter" drill tomorrow!" She proceeds to relate, in chilling detail, how they are to proceed during such an event. “We are to go to the back of the room, be quiet, and lie down. Our teacher will lock the door.

I'm rattled enough from that and then today (October 6, 2015), the media alerts us to the fact that “A social media post over the weekend threatens violence against a ... Philadelphia-area college/university Monday afternoon" (Published by NBC Monday, Oct. 5, 2015). All institutions of higher learning are placed on alert. I am employed full-time by a Philadelphia university and I also work part-time at Community College of Philadelphia, which is in center city near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"Shelter in place in Progress" (Ref.)
About 11 a.m. on October 6, I received a cell phone message from Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), where I was scheduled to teach that evening. The college is on lock-down due to a gunman on campus. After several more updates, I receive the message around 11:30 a.m. that "The suspect has been apprehended." On television, this brings a big sigh of relief. However, the message did little to calm me down. Just what the fuck is going on in the world?

I received another message stating that classes for the evening were cancelled. On one hand, I didn’t have to teach that night. On the other hand, I began to think about when I was a kid, when the only time school was cancelled was when you had a “Snow Day.” Now we’ve got “Shooter Day.” When I drove home after work, I heard on the news that the reason why the college was still on lock down was because police still hadn’t found the gun. Marvelous.

Here’s the message I found on CCP’s website when I got home:
“College’s Main Campus is closed effective immediately. The West, Northwest and Northeast Regional Centers are open. Exit campus in a calm, orderly fashion. Normal class schedules and business operations resume Wednesday. Get updates at or @CCPedu.”
Community College of Philadelphia under happier circumstances

Turned out the situation at Community College of Philadelphia was simply an act of RANDOM violence - an argument between two students; one supposedly had a gun. So it was unrelated to the “social media posting which threatened violence at a Philadelphia-area college or university for Monday, October 5” (ref.). We still have that to look forward to, then? On October 8, 2015, there was actually another shooting on a college campus - this time in Arizona (see link), where one student was killed. I mean, seriously, people, what the fuck is going on?

While the shootings in Oregon seemed to be related to religion (people who admitted they were Christian were shot in the head), the Community College of Philadelphia incident was essentially just an argument between two male students."These are two individuals who have a history," [Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey] said. "They were arguing over something. At some point in time this individual pulls a gun on the other — not uncommon in Philadelphia, unfortunately." (Ref.)
Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, killed himself after fatally shooting nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. (The Guardian)

This alert published by may just be the wave of the future, in which "Snow Days" are replaced by "Shooter Days" in our schools:

“Out of an abundance of caution, the FBI Philadelphia Field Office notified local colleges and universities of a social media posting which threatened violence at a Philadelphia-area college or university for Monday, October 5,” the agency said in a statement.

“No specific college or university was identified in the posting. We encourage students, faculty, and employees at area colleges and universities to follow the guidance of their campus security officials. The FBI will continue to work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to investigate threats of violence, and, as always, we ask the public to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.”