By Linda Smith
A &E Editor
I was at the YMCA running on the elliptical when I first heard about the Sandy Hook shooting. I found my eyes glued to the gym TV, unable to look away as I continued to circuit the machines. Tears rolled down my face as each set of details unfolded and by the time my mother picked me up after my workout, I was so emotional that I could hardly tell her about what was unfolding in that tiny town in Connecticut.
Later that day, my mother found a Samuel L. Jackson quote and shared it with my sister and me: “I don’t think it’s about more gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”
With the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting that took place last week, I found myself remembering that quote.
The shooting involved 15-year old Jaylen Fryberg who opened fire in the school cafeteria, shooting five of his classmates whom he had gathered together for lunch. Zoe Galasso, 14, was killed during the shooting; Gia Soriano, 14, died Oct. 26; and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, 14, died Oct. 31. The other two students who Fryberg opened fire on were his cousins Nate Hatch and Andrew Fryberg, all before he fatally shot himself.
An Associated Press story called “Washington school shooter remembered with victims” says that Fryberg was memorialized alongside his victims, an unusual turn of events. Normally, the shooter in these circumstances led a hard life, and there are not a lot of instances of them being greatly loved by many. The article, co-written by Gene Johnson and Ted Warren, points out that “it speaks to the unique grief this community is feeling, even in a nation where such horrors are becoming ever more common.”
Johnson and Warren also quoted mental health attorney Carolyn Reinach Wolf, who studies mass shootings. She links this response to the community, as it seems that in this case, “People are able to get past the grief of the victims and see that the shooter’s family is grieving and horrified just as much.” In fact, Fryberg’s cousin Andrew sent a tweet from his hospital bed that read simply, “I love you and I forgive you jaylen rest in peace.”
Maybe the Marysville community has touched upon a new idea that we need to take into consideration. Too often when the media covers these shootings they go overboard with accusations and implications. This increased exposure only glorifies the shooter and puts the media in the spot of telling a detailed and captivating story without the whole reality and the relevant facts. It becomes all about the shooter’s obvious signs of being interested in intricate weapons and violent video games while suffering great emotional turmoil. In this way, the spotlight blares negatively on the shooter and their loved ones, while the dead are swept under the media rug. Fryberg suffered tragedy, not unlike Eric Harris and David Klebold of Columbine or Adam Lanza of Sandy Hook, but finally snapped at what he believed was a grave injustice in his life.
Fryberg lived a normal life among the prominent Tulalip Indian tribe and was popular and well-liked. He reportedly snapped because of girl problems and took out his overwhelming anger on others, including close relatives. And yet, he has been memorialized alongside those children. It seems as if these steps will bring closure to the community, something that is usually left unachieved amid tension. I think it is a good thing that they are memorializing him; the community is not haunted by the spirit of what happened.
There should never be an occurrence of any innocent civilians being shot without cause, and yet in the past few years this has continued to happen. What is to blame? What can we do to change the circumstances? Can we truly prevent this from happening again, and if so, how?
I believe that our best course of action to prevent these shootings from happening is to continue to instill the value of life in people today. Parents are the most instrumental in this, by showing their children that there is beauty in life and that everything has an answer and an appropriate response. It is also the place of the media to tell the truth, especially concerning matters with as much gravitas as school shootings. The media can do its job of informing, and we can do our part in paying attention, learning and being observant. In learning about these shootings, we can look at the shooter as a previous member of their community, or perhaps still present in their legacy. Their loved ones are still affected and if people can learn to forgive the shooters, we can have a much better value of life. What typical shooters do not understand is this value of life. While Fryberg’s case does not include the signs of a typical school shooting as it is not clear that he did not value life, it is clear from the shooting that he had at least forgotten it.