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Victims Honored One Year After School Shooting

© Indian Country Today March 27, 2006. All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by permission from Indian Country Today

By Amy Forliti -- Associated Press
Indian Country Today

AP Photo/Jim Mone -- Fourteen-month-old Ayden Chase Lussier swung his drum stick as he sat with his grandmother, Sue Roy, in Redby, Minn., March 20. Ayden's father, Chase Lussier, 15, was one of five students killed by a fellow student at Red Lake High School in 2005.

RED LAKE, Minn. (AP) - Alicia White always made Mother's Day special. One year, while on a student council trip to the Twin Cities, she went to the Mall of America and used her allowance money to buy her mom jewelry.

The 14-year-old was killed a year ago March 21 in a shooting rampage on the Red Lake Band of Chippewa's reservation that left 10 dead, including the gunman.

"There's not a day that goes by without us wishing that she was here and just remembering all the crazy things that we did and said together," Theresa Spike, 32, said of her daughter. "It's been a year and I still sit there at 3:30 and wait for her to get off the bus."

Jeff Weise, 16, killed his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend before heading to Red Lake High School, where he killed five students, a security guard and a teacher before shooting himself. It was the worst school shooting in America since Columbine in 1999.

The tribe declared March 21 a Day of Remembrance, and all tribal services were closed. Red Lake High School remained open, at the request of students and staff. Counselors were on hand, but no regular classes were held. A moment of silence was held in the morning, and school was dismissed at 2:30 p.m. with no after-school activities.

"We know that everyone is going to observe the day in their way," said Willie Larson, school district accountant.

Several family members on this reservation in northwestern Minnesota held memorial dinners to honor their loved ones. Alicia White's family also planned to pause to remember the 14-year-old's caring spirit and goofy sense of humor.

The dinners are customary to people in Red Lake, and are traditionally held a year after a death to mark the end of a period of mourning, said Lee Cook, a tribal member and director of the American Indian Resource Center at nearby Bemidji State University.

"It's just meant to sort of honor the person and remind us of the life we had together," Cook said. "It's sort of a happy moment as opposed to a sad time."

The dinners are intended to help people move on, but "I think it's still going to take another year or two to really get over the events of last March 21st," Cook said.

Alex Roy, 15, is among the many who will need more time.

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