February 5, 1996 in Nation/World

Town Mourns, Tries To Heal ‘I’M Gonna Just Face It,’ Says Student As He Prepares To Resume Classes Today

Jeanette White S Brian Coddington And Staff writer
 

Albert Garza can hardly sleep at night.

He closes his eyes and sees classmates building a barricade with desks as shots ring out across the hall.

When a balloon popped at a video store over the weekend, the Frontier Junior High School student dived to the floor, dodging imaginary bullets.

Garza, 13, is one of hundreds of Moses Lake students suffering the aftershocks of Friday’s shooting rampage that left a teacher and two students dead and a third student wounded.

But this morning, Garza plans to be at his desk when the bell rings.

“I’m gonna just face it,” he said.

That sentiment enveloped much of Moses Lake on Sunday as residents tried to dry their tears and cope with the tragedy.

On the advice of mental health counselors, schools in the Moses Lake School District will be open today. Classes will start two hours later than usual to allow teachers to meet before seeing students.

“We’re going to either stand together … or we’re going to fall one by one - the victims of fear,” said David Rawls, schools superintendent.

“Children at this age heal best in groups,” he added.

The community began its healing Sunday morning with a packed town meeting at Immanuel Lutheran Church, where people discussed the slayings. To many, the facts seemed surreal.

Solemn parents cuddled their children. Gray-haired men removed their glasses and dabbed their eyes with handkerchiefs. A teenage boy bowed his head in silent prayer.

“I know a lot of people in this community are angry now,” said police Sgt. Dennis Duke, who called the shooting a random act of violence.

“But we can’t act on our anger. We have to deal with it.”

A woman urged people to control their animosity toward the alleged shooter, 14-year-old Barry Loukaitas.

“We have to have some sympathy for Barry and his family, too,” she said.

Meanwhile, relatives of the victims gathered to make funeral arrangements and pastors began planning a memorial service for Sunday.

Car after car pulled up outside Frontier Junior High as children trudged across the snowy schoolyard to place remembrances on the front steps: flowers for slain teacher Leona Caires; an art book for shooting victim Manuel Vela, 14, who liked to draw cartoons.

A hand-painted sign reads: “Hang in there, Natalie!”

Natalie Hintz, 13, who was shot but survived, was in fair condition Sunday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she is recovering from surgery to reconnect her nearly severed arm, said her grandmother, Marva Vance.

“She doesn’t remember anything,” Vance said. “It’s a blessing right now.”

Doctors still plan to operate on Hintz’s abdomen, and she also faces reconstructive surgery.

Renee Cunningham, sister of Arnold Fritz, 15, who was fatally wounded, said the reality of her brother’s death is beginning to sink in.

“I don’t think any of us have felt sorrow like this before,” she said. “It comes in waves. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real.”

Many parents are worried about their children’s safety when they return to school today.

Police will be there, and a group is organizing to study whether security measures are needed.

Administrators, teachers and parents met Sunday night to discuss ways to make the children’s return to school less traumatic.

“Is it a different classroom? Is it new furniture?” Superintendent Rawls said. “We’re going to be looking for the students to guide us through that.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ARRAIGNMENT TODAY Barry Loukaitas is to be arraigned today on three counts of first-degree murder and possibly one count of attempted murder. Grant County prosecutors will seek to try him as an adult; if convicted, he could face life in prison.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Jeanette White Staff writer Staff writers Brian Coddington and Carla K. Johnson contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: ARRAIGNMENT TODAY Barry Loukaitas is to be arraigned today on three counts of first-degree murder and possibly one count of attempted murder. Grant County prosecutors will seek to try him as an adult; if convicted, he could face life in prison.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Jeanette White Staff writer Staff writers Brian Coddington and Carla K. Johnson contributed to this report.

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