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Oregon community tries to heal after college shooting: 'Violence will not have last word'

Ethan Hurley, 7, top right, prays with a church group at a makeshift memorial near Snyder Hall at Umpqua Community College, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. Armed suspect Chris Harper-Mercer on Thursday killed multiple people and wounded several others before taking his own life at Snyder Hall. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Ethan Hurley, 7, top right, prays with a church group at a makeshift memorial near Snyder Hall at Umpqua Community College, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. Armed suspect Chris Harper-Mercer on Thursday killed multiple people and wounded several others before taking his own life at Snyder Hall. (AP Photo/John Locher)

In a rampage lasting about 10 minutes, Christopher Harper-Mercer took nine lives in chilling fashion before killing himself as police officers closed in.

In addition to English professor Lawrence Levine, the dead and the nine wounded were students  – some high-school aged, others just beginning college.

Among them was 19-year-old Lucero Alcaraz.

"There is no sense in talking about it. It's in vain," her father, Ezequiel Alcaraz, said in Spanish while fighting back tears and anger outside his Roseburg home. "What's the point in showing our pain?"

Lucero’s sister, Maria Leticia Alcaraz posted the news of the death on Facebook. She wrote of being proud of her sister for getting scholarships that would cover her college costs, and said she would have been a great pediatric nurse.

"She was my best friend and my sister," Maria Alcaraz wrote. "I'm full of anger, pain, sadness, regret that I didn't get the chance to see her or prevent this from happening."

She added, “You were going to do great things.”

The rural Umpqua Community College, located on nearly 100 acres of pastureland along the North Umpqua River, has about 3,200 students of all ages in this southwestern Oregon community, where the struggling timber industry is no longer seen as a path to the future. Its website said it offered "a peaceful, safe atmosphere."

At services across Roseburg on Sunday, pastors talked about the tragedy as the community tries to heal.

More than 100 people gathered to hear pastor Randy Scroggins speak at New Beginnings Church of God. Among them was his 18-year-old daughter Lacey, who cried while sitting in the front row with her mother and another student who was spared.

Randy Scroggins said he's been asked whether he can forgive Harper-Mercer.

"Can I be honest? I don't know. That's the worst part of my job. I don't know," said Scroggins, his voice cracking with emotion. "I don't focus on the man. I focus on the evil that was in the man."

A couple hundred people crowded into Garden Valley Church, where pastor Craig Schlesinger said living the faith means countering the rampage "with acts of kindness.""

Schlesinger also spoke about trying to make sense of survivor reports that the gunman asked who was Christian and then shot them.

"As those brave men and women were willing to stand and take a bullet for their faith... so let us bravely stand this day and live our faith in Roseburg," he said, wiping away tears.

Scroggins told those gathered at his church that his daughter survived because she was lying on the floor and partially covered by the body of a fellow student. The gunman thought his daughter was dead.

Scroggins said the community has "come together with strength and courage and compassion. As if to say, 'we will not be defined by violence.'"

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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