MARYSVILLE — Two years ago, Mary Schoenfeldt was flying across the country after a shooting rampage killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
These days, the expert in school crisis response is helping a different campus salve emotional and psychological wounds from another senseless killing spree.
This time, there was no air fare.
The tragedy occurred in her own back yard.
Schoenfeldt, who lives in Marysville, has been hired to direct recovery efforts in the Marysville School District, a post that will be paid with federal grant money.
“It is kind of surreal,” Schoenfeldt said. “You usually get on an airplane to go do that work.”
Schoenfeldt has been providing advice to the district since the Oct. 24 cafeteria shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Five freshmen, including the shooter, died of gunshot wounds to the head. A sixth student is recovering from a shattered jaw.
Schoenfeldt last week left her job of nearly eight years with the city of Everett’s Department of Emergency Management. She started Monday in Marysville. She’s been involved in school crisis response since the 1990s.
Dave DeHaan, who heads up Everett’s Department of Emergency Management, said Schoenfeldt’s background with school-related tragedies will be an asset in Marysville.
“It is an opportunity to provide all of her experience, a culmination of her life’s efforts,” he said.
In the pre-Internet era, Schoenfeldt began collecting everything she could find on trauma response and recovery.
A few years later, while working in California, she was asked to put together a training session on trauma responses. That led to the California state superintendent’s office hiring her to develop an emergency response model. It was later adapted by the U.S. Department of Education.
Her work has taken her to more than two dozen schools facing ordeals, including suicides, natural disasters and shootings. She has been to Louisiana to help reopen schools after Hurricane Katrina and to Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where 12 students and a teacher were shot and killed in 1999.
Schoenfeldt was drawn to trauma and how people respond to it in the 1980s while working as a noncommissioned community service officer for the Everett Police Department. That work included everything from helping people locked out of their cars to supporting victims in crisis. An accidental non-fatal shooting involving several junior high school students heightened her interest. She tried to keep up on their activities in the months and years afterward.
“By following them, I noticed how hard it was to recover from a traumatic incident,” she said.
Schoenfeldt expects that will be the case in Marysville, as well. She knows from other school-related crises that some students will suffer academically. Anniversaries and major events, such as graduations and proms, can be difficult. Her role is to provide resources to help students, staff and others affected by the tragedy.
She will be on hand Thursday evening when the district hosts a community meeting to discuss the future of the Marysville Pilchuck cafeteria and to offer advice on holiday stress. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at Cedarcrest Middle School, 6400 88th St.
Schoenfeldt, 67, had planned to retire from Everett in six months. She agreed to work for the Marysville School District through the 2016 school year.
Within a day of shootings, Marysville schools Superintendent Becky Berg said she realized Schoenfeldt’s knowledge would be valuable.
“She has just been a godsend,” she said.
Schoenfeldt raised her four children in a house at the corner of Colby Avenue and 18th Street in Everett. Today, she is a great-grandmother of seven.
She said she has learned to take care of her own needs in stressful times, often by getting her grandchildren to send photos of her great-grandkids.
“I am very proud of all my gray hair,” she said. “I earned every single one of them.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; email@example.com.