After Mass Shooting, Grief-Stricken Oregon Community Rallies Around Blood Drive

More than 200 people exceeded the drive's capacity on Friday — an outcome that didn't surprise longtime residents of the tight-knit Roseburg community.

ROSEBURG, Oregon — Before the Roseburg blood drive began on Friday, health workers realized they were over capacity — way over.

The sight of a line of people snaking around the strip mall parking lot was a shock to members of the mobile donor center team, said Mercy Medical Center’s Frank Rambaum.

The hospital laboratory assistant director, however, wasn’t surprised.

“What we’ve seen with the community, how much they pull together when things happen, I figured it’d be big,” he said.

Over the five-hour drive, representatives of Lane Blood Center planned to work with 50 to 60 donors to provide much-needed supplies for the hospital, Rambaum said. But at least 200 had hoped to help, with more stopping by throughout the afternoon to ask for information.

The blood center is working to make appointments for later in the month, and another blood drive is already scheduled for Oct. 21.

“It’s just overwhelming to see that many turn out,” Rambaum said.

In the town of 22,000, the fatal shooting of nine at the local community college — as well as the injury of nine others and death of the shooter — has touched almost every resident.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, an emotional Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon described how as a young child he had lived in Roseburg, where extended family members still live.

His first cousin’s great granddaughter was one of the victims.

“I never thought it could be possible that my family would be affected,” he said. “No one would have thought that here in this beautiful place, Roseburg, it could happen.”

About 10 minutes outside of the tiny city center, Umqua Community College sits in the hills, bordered by a farm, a lumberyard, and the North Umpqua River. Less than a mile from campus is the apartment of alleged shooter Chris Harper-Mercer, with only a few homes, the river, and an elementary school in between.

One of Harper-Mercer's neighbors, Lori Stoe, stopped at the blood drive Friday before returning to a home that was once again quiet following an all-night investigation of the area by authorities. She looked forward to donating sometime later this month.

“Even if it doesn’t go right here in Roseburg, it does for the next thing that happens,” she said.

Stoe, a Roseburg native and two-year resident of the neighborhood, had seen Harper-Mercer from time to time as she walked her dogs.

On Friday, her thoughts were with the victims — one of the injured is a friend of her son’s, she graduated from UCC’s nursing school in the ‘80s, and last year, her fiance completed his degree after going back to school. Returning to daily life after the tragedy would be difficult for everyone in the community, she said.

“It’s always right there in the back of your mind,” Stoe said.

Across from the blood drive at McDonald’s, the marquee said simply “Praying.” Similar messages of support have shown up across town.

The last two days have been surreal, said Lindsey Keller, an early blood O- arrival at the drive who was waiting for her turn to donate.

Two of her coworkers were on the UCC campus at the time of the shooting. They escaped unharmed, and her relief for them once she finally got the text confirming they were OK turned immediately to heartache for those who weren't.

“This is my community,” she said. “I went to UCC when I was younger. This is my family.”

Keller also was not surprised by the blood drive's turnout — though she added it left her with an overwhelming pride.

“This won’t break us,” she said. “We’ll be remembered for our response and coming together, not the tragedy that happened.”