MARYSVILLE, Wash. — Tribal members played drums and sang songs in a gymnasium as students and parents gathered to support each other following a deadly shooting by a popular Washington state high school student.
Young people hugged each other and cried and speakers urged people to come together during a community meeting Sunday afternoon at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. On Friday, a 14-year-old homecoming prince opened fire in the school cafeteria, killing one girl and badly wounding four other teenagers.
“We just have to reach for that human spirit right now,” said Deborah Parker, a member of the Tulalip Indian tribes.
The shooter, Jaylen Fryberg, was from a prominent tribal family. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot.
Three of the injured students fought for their lives in Seattle-area hospitals Sunday.
“Our legs are still wobbly,” said Tony Hatch, a cousin of one of the injured students. “We’re really damaged right now.”
Of the wounded students, only 14-year-old Nate Hatch showed improvement, though he remained in serious condition in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Fifteen-year-old Andrew Fryberg also remained in critical condition in intensive care. Both are cousins of Jaylen Fryberg.
Meanwhile, 14-year-olds Shaylee Chuckulnaskit and Gia Soriano remained in critical condition in intensive care at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
The girl killed in the shooting hasn’t been officially identified.
Fryberg died in the attack, after a first-year teacher intervened. It’s unclear if he intentionally killed himself or if the gun went off in a struggle with a teacher.
The makeshift memorial on a chain link fence by the school, which will be closed this week, kept growing Sunday. Balloons honoring the victims and the shooter adorn the fence along with flowers, stuffed toys and signs.
The close-knit community, meanwhile, on the nearby Tulalip Indian reservation struggled with the news that the shooter was a popular teenager from one of their more well-known families.
A tribal guidance counsellor said no one knows what motivated Fryberg.
“We can’t answer that question,” said Matt Remle, who has an office at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, which is 30 miles north of Seattle. “But we try to make sense of the senselessness.”
In the nearby community of Oso, where a mudslide this spring killed dozens, people planned to gather to write condolence letters and cards.
Remele said he knew Fryberg and the other students well.
“My office has been a comfort space for Native students,” he said. “Many will come by and have lunch there, including the kids involved in the shooting.”
They all were “really happy, smiling kids,” Remle said. “They were a polite group. A lot of the kids from the freshman class were close-knit. Loving.
“These were not kids who were isolated,” he said. “They had some amazing families, and have amazing families.”
These factors make the shooting that much more difficult to deal with, “Maybe it would be easier if we knew the answer,” Remle said. “But we may never know.”
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