Annual breakfast to honor those who reached out in times of crisis

TULALIP — Don’t ask them if they’re heroes. A trio of women being honored Thursday at the American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast know their work arose from a community’s agony.

Rochelle Lubbers, Tara Mizell and Mary Schoenfeldt — representing the Tulalip Tribes, the city of Marysville and the Marysville School District — took on the daunting mission of recovery after Oct. 24, 2014. On that horrific day, a Marysville Pilchuck High School freshman shot and killed four classmates and injured another before killing himself.

During the fundraising breakfast at the Tulalip Resort Casino, the three were to receive the Red Cross Humanitarian Spirit Award.

“They were the triumvirate that directly provided leadership with the recovery. They spearheaded the effort — period. And that doesn’t stop after a year,” said Chuck Morrison, executive director of the American Red Cross in Snohomish County.

The women are uncomfortable about any award being tied to such unfathomable loss. But they are grateful to shine a light on the unity that has grown over the past year.

“I’ve struggled over it,” Lubbers said of Thursday’s recognition.

“We can accept this award on behalf of our communities coming together. The partnership has always been needed.”

Lubbers, of the Tulalip Office of Emergency Management, is the Tulalip Tribes recovery manager. Mizell, Marysville’s parks and recreation services manager, is recovery manager for the city and chairwoman of the Recovery Committee that still meets regularly.

That committee, which met Wednesday at the Hibulb Cultural Center, brings together school officials, tribal leaders, state lawmakers and others working to build a safe, healthy and unified community.

“It’s just what you do — respond to what happens in our community,” Mizell said.

Schoenfeldt, unlike Lubbers and Mizell, has spent much of her career working in school crisis response. The Marysville woman’s work has taken her to Colorado’s Columbine High School, where two shooters killed 13 people in 1999, and to Newtown, Connecticut, where in 2012 a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

On the day of the Marysville Pilchuck shooting, when Gia Soriano, Zoe Galasso, Shaylee Chuckulnaskit and Andrew Fryberg were killed and Nate Hatch was injured, Schoenfeldt was working as a duty officer for Everett’s Department of Emergency Management. Schoenfeldt left that job, and with federal grant money was hired to help direct recovery efforts in the Marysville School District. She is now retired.

“When something like this happens, the community has to take the lead,” Schoenfeldt said. “Part of what it means is making sure those in the community are supported but not overwhelmed with outside expertise.” It was critical, she said, to deal with what mattered most.

Schoenfeldt said they were helped by the University of Washington, Edmonds Community College and Everett Community College loaning emergency staff to Marysville. That helped the school district focus on students and staff.

Schoenfeldt said it was important to invite students and parents back to Marysville Pilchuck, although school was closed, just days after the tragedy. Experts came together to make that happen, she said.

Mizell remembers the questions asked at the first big recovery meeting: “What do you have? And what do you need?” Grove Church and other faith groups, the Living Room coffee shop, Victim Support Services, Volunteers of America, the Red Cross and YMCA made spaces and mental health programs available to kids.

Suicide prevention was a big part of the effort. “The act itself was a homicide, but also a suicide,” Schoenfeldt said. “Within a very few hours, the city of Marysville was already reaching out to bring suicide prevention and awareness training into the city.”

Schoenfeldt said the united front presented by top leaders of the Tulalip Tribes, the school district and the city has been notable. She believes that unity eased “racial and other tensions that may have been very close to the surface.”

“There wasn’t the blaming, there wasn’t the finger-pointing. We are all so horrified — we lost our kids,” she said.

That unity was demonstrated on the first anniversary of the tragedy, when a “Walk of Strength” was held at the school. A Marysville/Tulalip United website, www.mtunited.org, continues to spread the word about healing resources and events.

“I know our work is not over,” Lubbers said. “We will be building mental wellness and whole-family health for years to come. There is no ending.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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