The questions are out there: Some readers have wondered or speculated why The Herald has not yet published more about the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting victims.
That debate arose Wednesday in comments posted on a blog by Neal Pattison, our executive editor.
One commenter said: “I would like to know as much about the victims as I do about the shooter. Maybe a nice article telling us who these great people are is in order.” Another replied, “Perhaps the paper is showing some respect for the forever grieving families of the victims.”
I started to write here that the answer is simple, and that we will write those stories when families are ready to share their loved ones’ lives. That is mostly true — but nothing about this tragedy is simple.
As we learned after 43 people died in the March 22 Oso mudslide, loved ones devastated by loss want and need privacy.
There is no right or wrong for a grieving person.
One parent, grandparent or sibling might want, soon after a loss, to share with the world all that they cherished about the person. For others, memories may be so personal that they abide forever only within their hearts. They will never talk with a reporter.
On Sunday evening, after Providence Regional Medical Center Everett announced that Gia Soriano, 14, had died, the hospital shared her family’s statement. It said, in part, “We ask that you please respect our privacy and give us the space and time we need to grieve and spend time together as a family in memory of Gia.”
At Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg has emailed multiple updates on shooting victims Nate Hatch, 14, and Andrew Fryberg, 15. Gregg has said their families were not taking part in interviews. “They want to express their thanks for support from their community and ask that you respect their privacy during this overwhelming time,” Gregg wrote in an email to The Herald and other media Monday.
Other media have done what The Herald hasn’t. Many have scraped social media accounts and created narratives that claim insight. You can search and find stories about the victims, but what do they say? Who do they hurt?
The New York Daily News on Monday published an article about one of the girls killed at Marysville Pilchuck. It had a picture of her, credited to Facebook, and an unattributed quote from “her peers” describing her as “nice and awesome.” It included a tweet the girl posted hours before she was shot.
That approach isn’t The Herald’s.
On Monday, I attempted to contact one teen’s parent by sending a Facebook message to a friend of mine who is close to the family. I asked my friend if she could ask if the family would want to share their daughter’s life with Herald readers. I respect and understand the reply my friend sent back: “She is declining at this time.”
At The Herald, there is no rush.
On Tuesday, I had the overwhelming experience of meeting and writing about Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, two parents who lost their first-grade sons, Dylan Hockley and Daniel Barden, in the horrific attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.
Soon after a gunman killed her son and 25 others in the Newtown, Connecticut, school, Hockley said her shock and grief were compounded by a huge loss of trust and control, in large part because of actions by media. “I remember being very angry when some people who never met Dylan talked to the press about him,” she said. Those people included distant relatives.
“We wanted to be able to have our family tell Dylan’s story. That’s incredibly important,” she said. “As far as trust, the world was not the same as it was the day before. Our entire life was upside down. To re-establish some control was important.”
But the Sandy Hook parents also said the news media can help by giving families a way to tell the world about their loved ones, and have them be remembered.
After the Oso mudslide, Herald reporters wrote biographical stories about each victim. We reached out early to many families. And some, soon after the disaster, did want to tell the community about their loved ones. Tribute stories with the memories of husbands and wives, children and colleagues were published in The Herald from late March until after the last person, Kris Regelbrugge, was found July 22.
When the Herald’s Eric Stevick wrote the family’s heartfelt story about her life it was Aug. 27. They wanted to hold off, until she was found.
“I wouldn’t bother anybody until those parents are ready to talk. I wouldn’t go beating on their door,” said Don Holleran, Kris Regelbrugge’s father, by phone Thursday from his home near Port Ludlow.
“Families need to have time alone together to help process it,” added Lynn Holleran, Regelbrugge’s mother. “It will take a while. I’m still having difficulties.”
The couple said families have different ways of coping. With their grandchildren, the Hollerans are still planning a celebration of Kris Regelbrugge’s life. “It will just be immediate family,” Lynn Holleran said.
Don Holleran can answer, better than I, why The Herald hasn’t yet written about the lives lost at Marysville Pilchuck. “Just give those people time,” he said.
This is our community. These are our neighbors. These are people’s lives, not a race for ratings. We wait.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.