On Thursday, May 10, 2018 I sent an email to Melinda, asking if she’d be interested in contributing her story to a book I was co-editing about survivors in the aftermath of school shootings. I wanted to learn more about her experience during the Umpqua Community College (UCC) shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, which left nine people dead on October 1, 2015. I wanted to find out what life was like for her three years later, and I was hopeful that by working with survivors to tell their stories, I’d begin to understand the ripple effects these shootings have on their lives and on their communities.
Between 2017 and 2018, my co-editor, Amye Archer, and I set out together to collect primary narratives from survivors of school shootings from the last fifty-five years. In the months before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we discussed ideas for a new anthology. It quickly became clear that gun violence, and those left in its wake, was of particular interest to both of us. For Amye, Sandy Hook changed everything, as it did for many parents across the country. Her twin daughters were the same age as the children murdered on that day, and she has been advocating for change ever since. I’d been writing about trauma for years after my own experience with rape, but never had the opportunity to coach anyone to write about their own trauma narrative. But I was unaware, at the time, of how being a receiver of their narratives might intertwine with my own.
But I was unaware, at the time, of how being a receiver of their narratives might intertwine with my own.
Finding survivors willing to work with me on this project was challenging, and my experience with locating survivors of UCC proved this. Out of the twenty individuals I reached out to, some of whom were active on social media, two of them returned my queries and were open to talking via phone. They shared survivors were cautious of media because at the vigil after the shooting, they didn’t respect their space and tried to facilitate interviews during their observance. They felt exploited rather than supported. But even after I assured them of my pure intentions, they were not…