Monday October 12 was the first day for students and staff back on campus at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon after the October 1, 2015 shootings that killed nine and wounded nine others. Red Nose Response was there, hoping to bring gentle humor, relief, and distraction from the tragedy.
It was an intense day full of tears, smiles, melancholy, small, heartwarming moments of joy, reflection, volunteer and community support, comforting words, and first steps in trying to return to normalcy.
Since it was not the time or the place for a clown in makeup or costume, Mike "Buster" Bednarek of Salem (OR), showed up as a Red Nose Responder in street clothes, RNR t-shirt and name badge, red high tops, and a satchel full of paper napkin roses. Mike was the lone RNR representative that day because the relief effort and opportunity for a Red Nose Response had come together so quickly. The invitation from UCC was received late Friday, October 9.
The following is a detailed description of the events of the day.
It was a long, intense day. Up at 3:45 AM after a restless half-night's sleep, and on the road an hour later, Mike pulled into the dark, pre-dawn campus at 6:50 AM, past the media trucks and community well-wishers that were just starting to set up. Staff and students would start arriving sometime after 7:00 AM. It was cold out, too, just 46 degrees, and because the forecast was for 80 degrees and sun, he hadn't packed and dressed for a possible outdoor, early morning post. Nervous energy kept him warm.
After checking in, he went back to the car, refocused, and sorted through all of the many supplies and props that he'd brought along - he was prepared for just about anything - and then trundled off to The Compass, a central meeting area and crossroads right in the middle of campus, with a fanny pack full of red paper napkin roses, a red bowler, and a water bottle.
RNR and "smiles to the rescue" took the shape of red paper napkin roses, supportive and encouraging words, and hugs that day to help UCC take a step in the healing process.
After five and a half hours, about 140 hand-twisted red roses, and numerous conversations, Mike walked away with arms cramped and fingers bruised from the paper napkin rose twisting (he wasn't used to or prepared for non-stop, marathon napkin rose production), but he had a warm glow from having helped out, even in a small way. With music turned up and windows open to fight off exhaustion, he hit the road, arriving safely home in Salem, 125 miles north.
The day had been both rewarding and exhausting. But the real story was the strength of heart at UCC.