Among the many well-wishers who have streamed into Newtown this week — firefighters and teachers, families and foreign tourists — the 13 graduates of Red Lake School in northern Minnesota were perhaps the most reluctant. Survivors of a 2005 school shooting at that Indian reservation school in which a 16-year-old student killed nine people, they drove 30 hours to get to Connecticut.
On Friday at Newtown Middle School, the Red Lake tribal members presented to Newtown teachers a plaque that had in turn been given to them by survivors of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in 1999.
“When the students from Columbine gave the plaque to the Red Lake students, they hoped that it would represent the end of such violence,” said Anthony Salvatore, assistant principal of Newtown Middle School. “But if it wasn’t the end, they’d been told to pass it on to the next school, kind of a ‘pay it forward’ idea.”
About 20 visitors from Red Lake arrived in Newtown to meet teachers and students and offer their solace and their experiences for those suffering from the trauma of last week’s murders. The visitors gave their Newtown counterparts tribal flags signed by children from Red Lake, offered prayers and sang Indian songs.
“The teachers really appreciated it,” Salvatore said.
The visitors from Red Lake told the Newtown residents that the plaque was now theirs, ideally forever. But if another school were ever to experience such horror, the people of Newtown would know their obligation.