Thursday, March 1, 2018

School Shooting in Moses Lake

It was only seventy miles east from where I grew up, but this area seemed so foreign to me.  It was a town with almost no history and with only a handful of people who had actually been born and raised there.

Moses Lake is a small agricultural town in Eastern Washington, situated in the Columbia Basin.  It became a town in 1946 after Grand Coulee Dam was built.  The building of the dam harnessed the power of the mighty Columbia River and also brought water to the semi arid land that held all the resources for growing vast amount of crops.

It was back in 1975 that I first came to Moses Lake as a new bride.  Being in a small town wasn't difficult for me as I was from a small town.  What was difficult was that this town held no historical facets and the setting was flat, no mountains and no trees.  Very different from the lush Kittitas Valley that I came from east of the Columbia River.

Being young, I easily settled into my new life with my loving husband.  I kept myself busy with my job at the bank since there were no children at that time in the home.  


Little did I know then that tragedy was nothing new to this little town.  Moses Lake had been home to Larson Air Force Base which had closed down in 1966.  Years earlier in December of 1952 one of it's transport planes had crashed and killed 87 people of the 115 on board.  It was the deadliest aviation accident of the time in the US.  Tragedy struck again in September of 1963 when 7 people were killed in the explosion of the sugar silos at U & I Sugar Company.  At the time, U & I Sugar was the largest sugar processing plant in the US.


Tragedy raised it's head again on February 2, 1996.  It was a sunny, cold winter day.  I was sitting in my reading chair, waiting for my children for arrive home from school.  My Dad, who was a retired policeman, had given me a police scanner.  I was listening to it off and on and I sensed something was not right.


When my daughter came home from high school and my son from elementary school, they confirmed my suspicions.  A student at Frontier Middle School had opened fire on his classroom and killed two students, one teacher and seriously wounded another student.  It seemed unreal for this to be happening in a small little town with a population of less than 15,000 people.  Frontier Middle School was located on one of the main streets in the town, about 2 miles from where we lived.


Being a small town, everyone at that time knew of or knew everyone else in one way or another.  Especially if you attended one of the old time churches in the community.  One of the students killed, Arnold Fritz, was from our  church.  Arnold was 14 years old when he was killed by his classmate.  I knew Arnold, his parents, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles.  One of his uncles had retired from U & I Sugar, his grandfather ran his own meatpacking business, another relative worked at the post office.  Everyone was connected in one way or the other.  I knew the parents of the girl who was severely injured as they were customers of the bank where I worked.


The gunman, Barry Loukaitis was a troubled youth who cited a saying from a Stephen King novel at the time he started shooting.  His home life was disruptive, too.  Sadly, no one stepped in beforehand to help him with his state of mind.


The pastor at the church where Arnold Fritz attended was all of a sudden put into the spotlight with this school shooting.  He handled it very well for the community.


But, this was not the end of this tragic situation.  It was just the beginning.  You see, Arnold Fritz had a cousin, Aaron Moore, who also lived in Moses Lake and attended the same Lutheran church.  It was another cold, winter day in December. I'll remember this day, December 6, 1996, forever.  I was at one of my rentals painting the kitchen.  I had my radio on and heard the news of a shooting in Moses Lake.  It scared me but luckily it didn't involved the schools.  I returned home to meet the children after school.  I then took my son to the local barber shop and as I was waiting for the barber to cut his hair, I saw on the local news that the shooter was Aaron Moore, Arnold Fritz's first cousin!  It seemed like deja vu as the barber shop just happened to be located directly across the street from the middle school where the school shooting had happened months earlier.


Supposedly, Aaron had felt depressed over what had happened to his cousin months earlier.  Aaron took a rifle and killed his mother and little sister and then himself.  Aaron's stepfather was not at home at the time since he had left for work.  His little sister, Mallory, had been a student in the vacation Bible school class I had taught a few years earlier.  When I heard this news, it made my heart break.  Tragedy all over again.  And, the pastor of our Lutheran church had to go through all the heartache again with our community.  Our pastor's wife was best friends with Aaron's mother who was now dead at the hands of her son.


Aaron's body was cremated and they held his funeral.  His mother and little sister's funeral followed.  There was nothing left as everyone's heart was broken.  Imagine how Aaron's stepfather felt as his family had been wiped out.


Since these tragedies back in 1996, this scene has been repeated many, many times at schools across the US.  I applaud those Florida high school students who are now standing up and wanting change and I'm with them all the way.  Believe me, you'd never imagine something like this can happen in your little town that most people have never heard of.  There is a little brightness to the end of this story.  Although I left Moses Lake in 1997, I heard later on that Aaron's stepfather had later moved on and remarried and had a child with his new wife.  As I don't know the specifics, it's heartwarming to know that he had the strength to carry on again with his own journey through life. 


I try to keep my blog "upbeat and bright", but I felt I needed to share this with you today.



Wishing you peace,

Pat 

11 comments:

  1. How horrible. I'm glad I'm a retired teacher, I don't know how I would cope in today's school.

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  2. there is a lot of sadness in life and kids who need help who are not getting it. Lord have mercy!

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  3. I remember these tragedies, Pat, as I was here in WA state, too, but on the 'other side'. It was so terribly sad to think that children could do things like this. And now it is an epidemic. I'm sorry that you had to experience this, knowing them all so personally. It's very hard to make sense of it all. I hope these young voices in Florida can finally bring about some change. xx Karen

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  4. Oh my I was not aware of these stories, but sadly I am not surprised. I wish so much that something could be done, but I think we are sadly still a long way from a solution.

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  5. What a sad story! It is difficult to even try to understand what contributes to all this 😒

    Susan
    www.blissfulbreaths.com

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  6. Thank you for telling your story Pat, it's important that people know. It's never 'just a statistic' or 'someplace else'. It's real people with real lives and families. It's a heartbreaking tale but heartwarming that Aaron's stepfather pressed on and overcame. I pray he finds peace and contentment and that as he commits his life to God, that he will indeed have peace and healing. Cx

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  7. Such horror! I can never say I would have a solution. The mentally ill walks among us and sadly we are not doing much about it. They're growing up seeing and hearing violence and are desensitized . People remembers to fill their kids with candy for Valentines Day, Halloween, Easter or whatever but forget to fill their minds with good teachings and their hearts with love. Sad!

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  8. I'm glad you told this story. I'm with you, something needs to be done. I'm not sure what but I hope someone figures it out soon. I'm tired of senseless murders of innocent people. ((hugs)), Teresa

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  9. How truly heartbreaking, and how awful to have so many tragedies in one town! I can’t imagine living in fear of gun crime as not even the police are armed here in the UK and shootings are so rare that they make headlines in every paper across the country. Mental illness is a terrible thing, but potentially lethal when the afflicted has access to firearms. I hope a solution is found for your country soon, so that this doesn’t happen again.

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  10. Such terrible stories, and all in such a small place. How very sobering. I appreciate reading your telling of them here, Pat.

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  11. So much sadness and devastation. Shootings are extremely rare here thank goodness and I hope so much these students make a difference for your country too xx

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