I experienced a range of emotions today and still cannot believe the number of lives that were lost in the sleepy little town that Justin and I once called home.
Umpqua Community College was kind of where I began my adult life. It was Winter. It was cold. It was dreary. I was depressed. But later found out I wasn’t depressed, I was just pregnant. I saw a job opening at UCC when we first moved there and I felt like God was all, here you go, Kia, you spent six years of your life benefiting from this program, it’s now your turn to serve others doing the same thing. So, UCC was where Margaret hired me to be a program coordinator for a non-profit organization, fresh out of Cal State Fullerton. Fresh off of a vacation to Fiji with my best friend. The following year, UCC was my first administrative job where I ran that same non-profit with the help of a lot of other dedicated people. UCC is where I spent a Halloween meeting a federal grant deadline instead of taking my girls trick-or-treating. I am grateful that I had a friend named Nia to take my girls out with her girls that night.
My office was in the Student Center at UCC. The UCC cafeteria was where I bought an egg salad sandwich nearly twice a week to satisfy my pregnancy cravings. I’m sure it’s because I just wanted to eat mayo. It’s where I greeted my close friend Krystal after she said “I do” to her husband. I had two baby showers in the Student Center there. I decorated the display with Black History Month facts in February, because when you’re the only Black person on campus, you kind of get volunteered to do that. Go figure. (Thank you, Ralph.)
UCC is where I spent most of my days as a full time working mom. I was fortunate enough to use the daycare provided through the early childhood education department. Olivia, and later Ella, were just up the hill from my office. I could walk up to peek in on them sleeping or playing or eating. And the day there was a fire alarm that went off, I was scared that there was really a fire but later amused that it was my Ella that accidentally pulled the alarm while getting a diaper change. Both girls pretty much learned how to walk at the Ford Family Center. Thank you for loving my girls, Theresa and Julie. They had their friends there, the Sommerfeld boys, Olivia B and Charlotte. In the summer, Justin took Olivia and Ella to swim lessons at the pool in the PE building. I took them to yoga class with me.
The summers also meant longer days at the office. Employees worked four, ten-hour days so we could enjoy three day weekends. It sounds horrible (and for the first few weeks it always was) but summers at UCC also meant longer lunches with some funny people like Mike and Susan. And walking around to everyone’s offices all over campus because we had time to chat. I remember walking “the loop” down to the Umpqua River with my office manager Inez almost every day in the summer. I even took a chem lab class in the Science building.
The summers were amazing at UCC. I always thought, how can I work when the weather IS SO GOOD. In the summer, the trees were full of leaves and the grass was so green and so lush. It seemed unreal. I don’t know how many times I opted to walk through the grass shoeless just because. And everything even smelled so green and so lush. I remember Olivia and Ella skipping down the pebbled walkways. I remember borrowing the warehouse golf carts to drive around on campus. I remember taking walks near the river and thinking, whoever gets to experience this is lucky. But it was me! I got to experience that. I was the lucky one.
UCC is where I remember Fall. In Southern California Fall was only Fall by name. But in Southern Oregon, Fall would come to Oregon and it was like the best romance movie you haven’t seen yet. The air was crisp. The setting sun would hit all the leaves on the oak trees that grow all over campus and the tops of the trees would glow like they were on fire (cliche, I know but true). It was breathtaking. Fall is where I wore my black pea coat and my cute, pink, plaid scarf that Olivia picked out as a present for me. I wish I could go back and walk the campus again. It would be a like a hug from an old friend. I’m cheesy that way. I know.
UCC is supposed to be where high school grads can save some money on their education before headed off to University of Oregon or Oregon State University. UCC is supposed to be where people finding themselves in need of a career change or a new start can go for a change of pace. UCC is where families can take their kids to learn how to swim, or watch a basketball game or chase the turkeys.
But today, all of those lives lost…
All of those lives forever ruined…
I’m praying for all of those people affected by the shooting at UCC. I’m going to remember those Fall days before this tragedy. And I’m going to wrap myself in a hug for all of them.
Thanks, Kellie for the image.