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In Wake of School Shooting, Tulalip and Area Communities Unite in Grief and Prayer


Once again, in America, a student took a gun to school and pulled the trigger.

Again, families are grieving, are standing vigil at loved ones’ bedsides in hospitals.

Again, authorities are trying to piece together why it happened, whether it could have been prevented.

Here’s what was known late October 24: At 10:30 a.m. that day at Marysville Pilchuck High School, a student pulled out a gun in the school cafeteria and shot five other students, then turned the gun on himself. He and one of the students died; four others were hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the head.

With a community swirling in grief and questions – what would compel a seemingly happy, popular, culturally active Tulalip boy, identified as 14-year-old Jaylen Fryberg, to shoot five classmates and kill himself? -- people did the only thing they could do.

They prayed.

They prayed at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, where the shooting victims were being treated.

At Harborview, Father Patrick Twohy, a Jesuit priest serving the Coast Salish nations for several decades, said families there had received prayers and songs – songs of healing, songs of blessing -- from throughout the Salish Sea region.

“Our power is when we all come together,” Twohy said. “Our strength is in our love for each other, in our common trust in our prayers together to the Holy One and to the ancestors.”

At the Muckleshoot Reservation, Pat John, Ahousaht, offered this prayer for “our families and relatives and friends of Tulalip Tribe.”

He prayed, “May our Creator be with those involved in the shooting. May our Creator watch over you and surround you with strength and love and may you heal in mind, body and spirit.

“May our Naas -- Creator -- be with those who crossed over to the Spirit World, and be with our loved ones, our ancestors. May Naas watch over [the] Tulalip community and the families, relatives and friends. Watch over them, protect them and comfort them with strength, courage and love during this tragedy …”

At a 5 p.m. press conference, local officials charged with finding the answers turned to higher power for help making sense of it all – and for help healing.

Marysville Mayor John Nehring said “our prayers go out” to those who lost someone, to those whose loved ones were injured. “This is a true community tragedy,” he said. “It’s going to be a long time for our community to heal from this.”

Tulalip Tribes Chairman Herman Williams asked the community to “pray for the children and families of those involved” – and he asked society to seek out ways to stop the school shootings that have plagued the nation.

Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith also called for action, saying it’s time for Americans to look at their values, to find ways to reach those who need help before a young person thinks there is no way out but with a gun.

According to a sourced list on Wikipedia, the shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School was the 39th school shooting in the U.S. this year.

“It’s time for us to act and not talk anymore,” he said.

To the families, Smith said, “Our hearts and prayers go out to the families struck by this tragedy. We love you and we’re going to be there for you.”

As the sun set over Tulalip and Marysville, school officials were working to make grief counseling available; weekend activities and next week’s classes were canceled. Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said officers from the FBI and ATF would be working through the night, investigating the shootings and working to determine the motive. And the Tulalip community gathered for a vigil at the Don Hatch Youth Center.

Other vigils were planned that evening in the area, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, at Grove Church, at Hillside Church and Reset Church.

“Sing your songs loud and pray hard for the Fryberg family, Tulalip Tribe, Marysville community and all those who knew Jaylen,” Chief Seattle Club program manager Caleb Dunlap wrote on Facebook. “This will have a huge effect on the lives of many. If you are sad, mad, confused or experiencing any other forms of grief, turn to your songs, medicines, prayers, elders [and] loved ones.”