Three Tulalip mothers whose children were killed or injured in the 2014 Marysville Pilchuck High School shootings marched to protest gun violence Saturday in Washington, D.C. They were among hundreds of thousands of people at the March for Our Lives, along with a group of students from local high schools.
About 20 members of the Tulalip Tribes joined in the march and shared their pain with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, said Deborah Parker, the Marysville School District’s director of equity, diversity and Indian education.
Parker, a former vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes board of directors, said the group included Denise “Nessie” Hatch-Anderson, whose son, Nate Hatch, was the only survivor of the attack in the Marysville Pilchuck cafeteria; Lavina Phillips, the mother of Shaylee Chuckulnaskit; and Lahneen Fryberg, Andrew Fryberg’s mother.
On Oct. 24, 2014, a Marysville Pilchuck classmate shot five peers, four of them fatally, before killing himself.
The mothers brought children or other family members to support them, Parker said Tuesday. The day before the march, they visited U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, who represents Washington’s 1st District.
“I believe it was one of the first times the families spoke of the tragedy together,” Parker said. “At first the meeting was very solemn. Then each parent explained the tragedy and the impact it had on our lives. Seeing their pain, it was as if it happened yesterday.”
The Tulalip group pushed for laws limiting the sales of military-style weapons, prohibiting high-capacity magazine sales and closing background-check loopholes. They asked for more mental health counseling and school resource officers, Parker said.
The Tulalip Tribes supported the trip, and Parker credited Theresa Sheldon, secretary of the tribal board, for making it happen. “For the families, it was very healing to know they’re not alone. There were so many compassionate people, of all ages and all walks of life,” she said.
Another local group, five high school students and two chaperones, made the trip with the help of money raised by Roger Gable. The owner of an Everett piano business, Gable had taken out ads in The Herald seeking donations to help send local teens to the March for Our lives.
“I think we ended up with $12,000,” said Bailey Thoms, a Marysville Getchell High School junior who spearheaded a Marysville rally against gun violence not long after the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School.
With Thoms on the trip were her friend Mikaylah Himmelberger, who also attends Marysville Getchell; Thomas Roe, a Lakewood High School student; Katie Dalton, from Marysville Pilchuck High School; and Jocelyn van der Put, of Lake Stevens High School. Bailey’s mom, Rebecka Thoms, and Marysville Getchell history teacher Marjorie Serge were chaperones.
Van der Put, an 18-year-old senior, registered to vote Monday. “I’ve always been deeply upset by all the mass shootings. I wasn’t even born when Columbine happened,” she said.
Her father is from the Netherlands, and she believes it’s far too easy to get a gun in this country. Also, she said, guns and violence are glorified. “I want to keep my family safe,” she said. “My little sister is 12, my brother is 15 and my mom’s a teacher at Lake Stevens High School.”
Van der Put is part of a committee organizing a school walkout related to gun violence April 20.
Himmelberger, a Marysville Getchell junior, called Saturday’s march “extremely eye-opening.” Like others in her group, she was impressed by Emma Gonzalez, a Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor whose speech at the march included silence to honor victims. “She really brought me to tears,” Himmelberger said.
She favors boosting the age to own any type of gun. “You can’t even drink a beer until 21, but we can put weapons in someone’s hands,” Himmelberger said.
Roe, a Lakewood senior, saw Gable’s newspaper ad and thought the trip would be a great opportunity to voice his opinion in a massive setting.
“It was, in a word, amazing,” said Roe, whose father, Mark Roe, is Snohomish County’s prosecuting attorney. Asked about one change he’d most like to see, Roe said it would be not allowing civilians to own military-style weapons. “I don’t see any place in society for that kind of weapon,” he said. “And also, to change the culture around guns. A lot of other countries have almost no gun violence.”
Roe didn’t see the Tulalip group, but his student group wore T-shirts with the names of Washington’s school shooting victims, including those from Marysville Pilchuck.
The teens, who stayed at a Westin Hotel, visited the city’s museums, monuments and art galleries. “I got to see the Department of Justice building, and I want to be a lawyer,” van der Put said. She was impressed by the Lincoln Memorial but noted that the White House is “really small.”
Thoms loved being in Washington, D.C., but was sorry to miss Saturday’s marches at Asbery Field in Marysville and in downtown Everett.
Serge, the history teacher, said her students this year have discussed the white nationalists’ rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, and professional athletes’ take-a-knee protests during the national anthem.
“That’s what our country is about, activism,” said Serge, who at 66 remembers Vietnam War protests. “The only way things change is when people stand up and speak up.”
For the mothers still grieving for children killed at Marysville Pilchuck High School, the march brought a sense of shared belonging and purpose. But the pain is forever.
“People there had the same views — no more violence, we want safety for our children,” Parker said. “Nothing will bring back their family member. There’s not a day they don’t miss their loved ones.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.