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Town center shootings come too close to home

As a rule, journalists are supposed to be unbiased, nonjudgmental and objective. Last week, I failed in all thoseLori Hall categories.

As with most people in Clackamas County, I was left reeling after the Clackamas Town Center shootings Dec. 11. This one was too close to home and too personal for me.

The CTC is my mall. It is four miles from my house, a straight shot down Sunnyside Road. My 10-year-old daughter loves going to Justice and Barnes & Noble and Aeropostale. We’ve dropped our middle-school-aged son off at the mall to hang out with friends. It is the only place we see movies. It is our mall.

I have lived in Clackamas County for 10 years now. I’ve been active in the community and the schools, serving on the county parks and recreation board, MOMS Club and PTO. I have many friends in Clackamas County and especially Happy Valley — many of whom love to shop.

When I saw the first alert come in about the shootings while I was sitting at my desk, my first thoughts went to my friends and our children. Not very professional of me, I know.

I then went to Facebook. Over the course of the next few hours, as the events unfolded, Facebook lit up with friends and family all checking in. One by one I was reassured that those closest to me were safe and sound.

A middle-school orchestra from our school district was at the mall just before the shootings. It could have been my son’s band playing there. One of my closest friends was there just an hour before it all started. Another friend’s husband was running late on his way to the mall and narrowly avoided the shootings.

As the stories were shared and the evening came to an end, I was still rocked, but at least those nearest and dearest to me were safe.

And then the next morning, texts start rolling in and my cellphone starts ringing. One of the victims is from West Linn. My heart hit the floor.

I now had to push all my emotions aside and get to work. With the help of coworkers, we got the news online quickly. I then raced out the door to a press conference, where I heard more details than I would ever want to know about the event and the people affected.

As I worked on the story all day Wednesday, I talked with people who knew Steve Forsyth, heard their grief and learned what a loss to West Linn his death was. I grew sadder and sadder.

Wednesday night, after putting the paper to press, knowing I did my job as best as I could, the emotions came back in waves.

Some may think journalists are callous, uncaring and are always looking for drama and action. But that isn’t so. We all have families. We all have friends. We all have community.

In my years of reporting I have dealt with death many times. It hurts every time. If I had my choice, all my stories would be uplifting and about cute kids, puppies, bunnies and kittens. But that is not what life throws at us. I’ve never been handed a story with such destruction and suddenness as this one that has impacted me so much. I hope it never happens again.

Lori Hall is editor of the West Linn Tidings.



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