POLITICS

How One Woman’s Life Has Been Punctuated By School Shootings

"We heard what sounded like a distant gunshot, and people were running out of the school."
Community members at a candlelight vigil for those killed in a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, on O
Community members at a candlelight vigil for those killed in a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, on Oct. 1.

Whenever there's a school shooting, reporters scramble to contact family members, neighbors, classmates -- anyone who might be able to help explain what happened. 

On Friday, a day after 10 people died in a shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, I called Heather Compton because she had attended Roseburg High School. Nine years ago, a 14-year-old Roseburg student brought a gun to school and shot another student in the back. Compton, 28, told me she'd transferred from Roseburg and graduated the year before it happened. We were about to hang up when she mentioned a different shooting. 

In 1998, an expelled student named Kip Kinkel murdered his parents before driving to Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, and shooting nearly 30 kids, most of them in the cafeteria. Two died. The Thurston High School shooting -- not to be confused with the North Thurston High School shooting -- was America's worst school shooting until the Columbine massacre the following year. 

Compton said she lived across the street from the high school and was a student at Ridgeview Elementary School at the time, which is nearby. She said her older sister was a freshman at Thurston. 

"I was getting on a school bus and we heard what sounded like a distant gunshot, and people were running out of the school," she said. She recalled a police car following her bus to Ridgeview, and then adults yelling for everyone to get off the bus and run inside. 

"Our school went into lockdown and we had to sit in the corners of the classroom in complete silence," she said.  "My sister was in the cafeteria when it happened, and I remember her coming home and she had blood on her clothing."

Today, Compton lives and works as a real estate agent in Eugene. She said that when she heard about the Roseburg shooting, she had the same reaction she has every time this happens.

"I just cried."