Andrew Fryberg died November 7th at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, two weeks after being shot in the head by his cousin, Jaylen Fryberg, at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. It's strange, but when I type Marysville-Pilchuck in my word processing program, I get a red line underneath Pilchuck that indicates the program doesn't recognize the word. My program doesn't recognize Pilchuck, but the rest of the country does. What was once a relatively obscure name of a high school in the upper left-hand corner of Washington State has become recognizable for all the wrong reasons. Now, when I type Marysville-Pilchuck into my browser, along with "Marysville-Pilchuck football" and "Marysville-Pilchuck pool times," I also get the option to click on "Marysville-Pilchuck shooting." This community, just around my corner, has joined a tragic group.
At Sandy Hook, Adam Lanza didn't know those he killed. At Columbine, Harris and Klebold knew their classmates but that didn't matter, as they planned to take out as many people as they could. Lanza, Harris and Klebold were mad at the world and chose schools, not specific people, as targets for their rage. A very different story appears to be unfolding at Marysville-Pilchuck. Jaylen Fryberg went after specific people. News reports say he texted his five victims, inviting them to the cafeteria, where he would later target them with shots to the head. At Marysville-Pilchuck, a picture emerges of highly personal acts of violence against five targeted teenagers, by both a classmate and, for some victims, an extended family member.
Over the past three weeks, four of those five have succumbed to their injuries. On the day of the shooting, Zoe Galasso died at the scene, not making it alive out of her high school cafeteria. Two days later, on October 26th, Gia Soriano died in the hospital. After a week in critical condition, on October 31st, Shaylee Chuckulnaskit became the next to die. After two weeks fighting for his life, Andrew Fryberg lost his battle on November 7th. Only one, Nate Hatch, another cousin of Jayleen Fryberg, survives.
Lanza, Harris and Klebold have been categorized as isolated, dysfunctional loners and losers, in the aftermaths of those infamous shootings. The truth, I imagine, is more complex than that but the troubled outsider bent on revenge fit the narrative many wanted and even needed to hear. What are we to do about Jaylen Fryberg? As Kirk Johnson and Shaila Dewan wrote immediately after the shooting in the NY Times, "If the bullet-scarred American psyche has an archetype for a school gunman, it looks very little like Jaylen Ray Fryberg. He was not a loner or a known misanthrope - far from it. He was a football player with a million-dollar smile, popular enough to be elected homecoming prince of his freshman class at Marysville-Pilchuck High School" According to a quote in that article, he was "an outgoing person that everyone in the school loved." Not a loner or a loser, but loved, who still shot five friends in the head after they agreed to meet him. That is a deeply disturbing picture.
Three weeks is not much time. Sadly, it's time enough to lose four - some would count five - teenagers to violence. Three weeks is time enough for Marysville-Pilchuck to reopen, though the cafeteria, where the shootings took place, is closed. After time, Connecticut agreed to pay for Sandy Hook to be demolished and a new school built on the site. After time, Columbine High School tore down the library, the site of the most deaths, and dedicated the new library to the victims.
The Marysville community is not there yet. As one of the hundreds of people who lined the high school entrance on reopening November 3rd said, "It's still hard to believe that it actually happened right here." Believing is going to take more time.