Cheyanne Strong, a 2015 Dayton High School graduate, was in her yoga class at Umpqua Community College on Thursday morning when her athletic director walked in with “a woman who looked startled.”
“She told us there had been a shooting on campus and that she was going to lock us in,” recalled Cheyanne, 18. “She told us, ‘Luckily, you’re in the safest building on campus.’ Then she just left. I was in shock.”
Cheyanne, who’s attending the college on a volleyball scholarship, has been living in Roseburg, Ore., since July to practice with her team.
“All I’d ever hear was this is the safest town,” she said. “Nothing bad ever happens here. This was never my thought.”
Although she’s been on campus for months, it was just her fourth day of school when the shooter opened fire at the school, killing nine students and injuring nine others before killing himself during a shootout with police.
Her class, the last to be evacuated, remained under lockdown for three hours.
During that time, she said, some information trickled in from friends, family and teammates on the outside.
“We we’re hearing bits and pieces, but it was hard to get the exact information about what was going on,” she said. “It was definitely scary.”
The first thing she did was call her parents in Dayton.
“I wanted to let them know immediately that I was safe,” she said.
Her mother, Tami, was at work and hadn’t heard about the shooting until the phone call.
“I didn’t know how to react,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think.”
Ultimately, she and her husband, Thomas, drove to Oregon that afternoon to pick up their oldest daughter.
“I just needed to see her face,” Tami said. “And she needed to see us. She needed to get out of town for a couple of days.”
Cheyanne will stay home with her parents and four siblings before returning to college Tuesday. She needs to get back, she said, to be with her teammates, one of whom was in a classroom with the gunman.
“We knew she was in the building, and we didn’t hear from her for a couple of hours,” Cheyanne said. “It was really scary.”
She will need the team’s support.
“We, as a team, want to be together,” she said.’”We’ve gotten really close. This will just make us stronger.”
As for her own reaction, Cheyanne is still sorting through all of it.
“There’s a lot of confusion and anger,” she said. “It’s just horrible. I still can’t comprehend exactly what all happened.”
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