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At Makeshift Memorial, School Shooter Remembered Alongside Victims

Paula Wissel

In the wake of Friday’s deadly shooting, a makeshift memorial site is taking shape at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. A long chain-link fence is now covered with balloons, ribbons and flowers. But there’s something unusual about this memorial site.

Credit Paula Wissel

As the wind whips the red and white balloons secured to the top of the fence-turned memorial wall, it’s hard not to be impressed. It’s covered with messages and mementos almost as far as you can see.

But as I quietly read some of condolence notes left behind, it becomes clear: many of the messages honor the shooter Jaylen Fryberg in addition to the two killed victims, Zoe Galasso and Gia Soriano.

Under a large sign that says “Rest in peace, my beautiful angels” are photos of all three. There are tiny Winnie the Pooh bears with the names Jaylen, Zoe and Gia written  on them. There’s a poster that says “Stand as one” bearing the pictures of the victims and the shooter.

Looking at all of this, it’s hard to imagine, say, the Columbine shooters being memorialized in this way, along with the victims. And experts of such tragedies say this display is indeed unusual.

Credit Paula Wissel

But when asked if this sort of thing is appropriate, Marysville School District Superintendent Becky Berg told reporters we might learn something from what students are putting up here.

“I think right now is not a time to blame and to ostracize. I think now is a time to come together, and that is a very organic memorial where people are putting what they feel from their hearts. And that’s appropriate,” Berg said.

Of course, there has been something of a backlash. On some social media sites, people say the memorial is inappropriately glorifying the shooter.

But in these messages lies evidence that this school shooting was different than the others in one respect: This perpetrator was well-liked and had many friends. And in spite of what happened, these friends have posted heartfelt messages.

“I’ll never forget your amazing smile and big laugh,” one such message reads. “You are no monster, just an amazing person who wasn’t in his right state.”

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.