The chain link fence at the front gate of Marysville-Pilchuck High School has become an unofficial gathering spot for those in grief. They bring bouquets of flowers and hang them on the fence, they tie on balloons, and they put up posters with the names and photographs not just of the victims, but also of the alleged shooter.
Senior Emma Kilgore was in the band room when the shooting happened. She stands next the memorial. “What I see are tons and tons of flowers, and, cheesy as it sounds, it reminds me of a rainbow that has appeared over the school these past few days,” she said, referring to the unusual number of rainbows that have appeared over the school since the shooting.
Kilgore and fellow bandmate Marshall Smelser have been spending a lot of time talking with friends and just trying to figure it all out. “How are we going to find reality?” asked Smesler. “Going to school and having it be normal, are we going to get back to that, will it be weird? It’s going to be hard.”
The high school had been closed since the shooting on Friday, but on Sunday afternoon, they opened the gates, briefly to students and their families.
Hundreds of people gathered on the bleachers of the school’s big gymnasium, under a banner that read Tomahawks. Students greeted each other with hugs, some openly weeping. School Superintendent Becky Berg brought in a team of grief counselors to start the process of helping students and families heal.
The alleged shooter was a popular son from a prominent Tulalip family and two of the victims were his cousins. Tribal leader Tony Hatch addressed the crowd. He said that their members are deep in shock and pain.
“Our community has taken a kick in the belly here, a real hard one to swallow, feels like we got knocked out and our feet are wobbly,” said Hatch. “Our kids love each other, we are really damaged right now. We’ve got families all over Tulalip who are grieving really hard right now. Keep them in prayer please.”
The Tulalip leaders performed a traditional honor song for those who are struggling right now.
People here keep repeating that they have no answers and don’t really know how they are going to move forward, but they say the most important thing is that they go down that path together, as a community.