There is no more normal or comforting sort of place than the interior of Clackamas Town Center, where the background music is muted, the trolley weaves among shoppers and daylight floods through ample skylights TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Police prepare to search Clackamas Town Center after Tuesday afternoon's shooting.

We’ve all been there. We all know what it is like.

Nor is there a more joyful time to be at the mall — despite the holiday hubbub — than the second week of December, when shoppers have kicked into full purchasing mode as they work their way through their Christmas gift lists.

And yet, as we all now know, it was just such a day at the town center on Dec. 11 when a disturbed young man stormed through the mall, wearing a mask, and opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon. His rampage destroyed lives, as well as our collective holiday sentiments of peace and joy. Indeed, one of the two people killed that day besides the gunman was Steve Forsyth, 45, a West Linn father and husband who graduated from Lake Oswego High School in 1985. The other victim, Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, was a hospice worker and resident of Northeast Portland.

A third victim, Kristina Shevchenko, 15, was released Tuesday from Oregon Health and Science University Hospital after suffering serious injuries.

When horrific events occur in the most benign places, we all are left jarred, reeling and asking why. It’s much too early to attempt to address that question in this case. But even when all information is made available about the shooter and his victims, the odds are that we still won’t know exactly what triggered this particular person to inflict violence upon others and himself.

It is wholly unsatisfying, however, just to say such tragedies are a risk of modern life we all must accept. Even with limited knowledge of what drives young men — and they are always young men, it seems — to perform such senseless acts, we can identify root causes and think about prevention.

The questions we must explore include issues of mental health, the availability of assault-style weapons and the potential ability — with better technology — to make our public places safer while also not encouraging a police-state atmosphere.

This week, all of Oregon is mourning for what was lost at Clackamas Town Center that day and for the 26 victims (20 of them children) killed in Newtown, Conn., three days later in what is the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

In the case of the Clackamas shooting, it was 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts of Southeast Portland who did the unthinkable before turning his gun on himself and pulling the trigger one last time. In Connecticut, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother before going ballistic inside an elementary school. His fuselage of bullets finally ended when he took his own life.

Our hearts ache for family members of the victims, for their friends and we lament the shattered illusion of suburban safety. At a time intended for peace, joy and fellowship, we are left instead with shock and grief. As we move forward, though, it is important also to think about how to decrease the chances of such events occurring in our community, our nation, ever again.

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