TULALIP, Washington – The people of this ancient place, which their ancestors named for its long bay, have been through trauma before, times of extreme hunger, when the People were not allowed to visit old fishing, clamming and hunting grounds.
Times of extreme sadness, when foreign diseases like measles, pneumonia, smallpox and tuberculosis took the lives of so many loved ones.
Times of cataclysmic events, as when a large portion of the southern tip of the Camano Island slid into the sea, sweeping away the village of WHESH-ud and causing a tidal wave that killed family members on another island.
But the People emerged from trauma with a strong sense of empathy, and the knowledge that people survive by sticking together.That’s why Tulalip responded the way it did in April – with more than $100,000 in support, and healing gatherings, and prayers -- after a landslide on the Stillaguamish River killed 41 people and wiped a neighborhood off the map. “[At Tulalip], we live in a tight-knit community, and when tragedy occurs we come together to offer whatever talent, whatever abilities we have to help,” said Natosha Gobin, Tulalip, during a fundraiser to help landslide victims.
And so, the People come together again. And what has emerged after the October 24 shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School are messages of love and forgiveness.
Nate Hatch, 14, the sole survivor of the shootings, has returned home to his Tulalip Bay neighborhood – and to reminders of growing up there with his cousin, Jaylen Ray Fryberg, who shot him and four others in the school cafeteria before killing himself.
As he recovered in Harborview Medical Center from a bullet wound to his jaw, Nate tweeted a message of forgiveness for Jaylen.
The family of Andrew Fryberg, 15, the fourth victim to die from injuries sustained in the shootings, wrote in a statement released by Harborview on November 7, when Andrew passed away: “We express our thanks for the amazing support from the community, as well as from everyone around the world that have been praying for us all through this tragic event … Our family is overwhelmed with the love and care …”
The Tulalip Tribes issued this statement on its website that day: “The Tulalip Tribes and Marysville [are] forever changed as a result of the senseless and tragic incident … and know that healing will not happen overnight. We remain committed to taking this journey together, step by step, holding up the families most impacted and helping our communities heal.”
And on November 10, the mother of one of the victims told KING 5 News in Seattle about watching Jaylen Fryberg grow up, about a visit from Jaylen’s mother after the shootings, about the healing power of forgiveness. “In order for me to heal from this, I have to forgive because I cannot waste my life hating or being angry. I just can't," Michelle Galasso, mother of Zoe Galasso, told KING 5 News. "I'll never know why he did it and he took away one of the best things that I ever brought into this world, but he's a child too." Of Jaylen’s mother, she said, "She's hurting. She's grieving. She lost her child as well."
During their visit, the two mothers embraced, and Galasso said she told Mrs. Fryberg, “I love you.”
Sheriff’s investigators have pieced together the days and moments before the shootings – Jaylen’s tweets alluding to conflicts in his life, the text message inviting his friends to lunch in the school cafeteria that fateful morning. Investigators continue to work to determine what would have driven a teen boy – named homecoming prince by his fellow freshmen only days earlier – to commit such a horrific act.
The answer could be a long time coming, according to the sheriff’s department.
“You read about this happening in other cities, but you never think it’s going to happen to [you],” said Mel Sheldon, a former Tulalip chairman. Healing from the tragedy of October 24 will take “a lot of prayers in the days ahead.”