To the Victims and the Shooter

The Marysville-Pilchuck Shooting Memorial for the victims and the shooter, Jaylen Fryberg. 

Courtesy of

Getty Images

The Marysville-Pilchuck Shooting Memorial for the victims and the shooter, Jaylen Fryberg. Courtesy of

Angela Chuang, Photojournalist

On April 20, 1999, 15 people were killed at Columbine High School in Colorado.  On April 16, 2007, 33 people were killed at Virginia Tech in Virginia.  On December 14, 2012, 28 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  If all the school shootings known to the United States so far were listed out, it would start in the 1760s and end with October 24, 2014.  That last shooting was the 14 year-old, Jaylen Ray Fryberg, opening fire at his five friends in the cafeteria of his high school in Washington state, leaving 5 dead including himself.

Our society has molded a stereotype for school shooters that shows them as unloved, psychotic, and bullied human beings. However, Jaylen does not fit in that stereotype in any way.  Well-liked among his peers, he was crowned the 2014 freshman homecoming prince of Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington.  His peers described Fryberg as an enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic person with a great smile.

Fryberg came from a Native American background and was extremely proud of his heritage.  He posted throughout his FaceBook page, which had over two-thousand friends, photos of him exploring his heritage.  Just before the shooting, another student had made a racial comment about Fryberg’s heritage, which deeply offended Jaylen. Because of the racial slur, Jaylen got in a fight with the student.  He was suspended from the football team, and after this, he seemed a little different to his friends.  He had also just broken up with his girlfriend from another school and often expressed his feelings through social media.  A few days before the shooting, he was no longer the warm and friendly boy that made everyone laugh and smile.  It is, however, uncertain whether or not these occurrences were part of Jaylen’s motive for committing a crime like the one he did.

This may seem like another school shooting that has plagued our society, but there is a twist to this story.  Kind words are still being passed along about Jaylen in his community.  One of the five friends Jaylen opened fire on and one of Jaylen’ closest friends, Nathan Hatch, tweeted, “I love and forgive you Jaylen rest in peace”.  Many have the mentality that if Nathan could forgive Jaylen, then so can they.  Therefore, the city of Marysville is memorializing not only the victims but also Jaylen, for all deserved to be remember for being kind and loving to those around them.

Loving signs and pictures are still being hung on the school’s fence for the five students, including Jaylen, even weeks after the shooting.  When asked what her opinion on this outcome was, YLHS student, Nikita Vasoya(10) said, “It’s amazing that people can still see the good that Jaylen did for his peers, community, and heritage even after the school shooting.  It truly amazes and inspires me.”  Jacob Yee(10) added, “It’s evident that he and his friends were truly loved in the community.”

We see school shootings as a growing problem in society, and it is.  However, the kind people of Marysville found the power in their hearts to forgive and continue to love Jaylen, even after the nightmare he brought upon the town.  It is truly touching to see that there are people in this world with the capability to love and forgive even after a major loss.  As Joan Lunden once said, “Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life.”