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Among Schools With Shootings, A 'Tragic Fraternity'


In 2005, Red Lake High School in northern Minnesota was the scene of another school shooting. In all, 10 people died, including the 16-year-old shooter. When I went to Red Lake soon after the attack, I talked with the school principal, Chris Dunshee. He told me Red Lake had joined what he called a tragic fraternity along with schools in Columbine, Colorado, and Paducah, Kentucky. When I reached Dunshee today, he sad the Newtown shooting had brought painful memories flooding back.

CHRIS DUNSHEE: I mean, the pain never stops, but the interval between the pain just gets longer. And I think that's kind of the message that I would share with Newtown, that don't look for the pain to ever go away, but it will - the time between will grow longer. It's, you know, like a scab that grows over the wound, and you become numbed to some of that until something like this happens again.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm. You had told me back in 2005 that there were a couple students from Columbine who came to Minnesota to try to be of some help. You didn't know they were coming. They just came.

DUNSHEE: No, they just showed up. And I was reading on one of my Facebook pages last night that some of the kids from the 2008 class, or the class that had those students - the students were in their class that were killed here at Red Lake are actually trying to raise money to go out there and be with the people in Newtown. And, yeah, they remembered those students from Columbine. They remembered how much that helped them, and they're looking and turn now to see if they can do anything that would ease the pain.

BLOCK: You know, I was thinking, Chris, that the date of these tragic events becomes indelible in these communities: for you in Red Lake, March 21, at Virginia Tech it's April 16, and now for Sandy Hook it's going to be December 14. Does that date for you ever come around, March 21, when you don't immediately remember what happened there?

DUNSHEE: No, March 21 is a date that I'll always be aware of.

I was thinking this morning, you know, as kind of an aside - we just got a couple little puppies here not too long ago, and their birth date was March 21. And I told my wife, I said, I'm not sure I can get them. And she made a good point. She said, you know, it's time something good happened on March 21. And so we got the puppies. We're really happy about it.


BLOCK: Something good coming from that date.

DUNSHEE: That's exactly right. Yeah. Yeah.

BLOCK: Well, I know this is - it's a very different community in Connecticut from yours there in Minnesota, a very different school, very different ages of the kids. But if you could talk to people there in Newtown, what would you tell them? What would you want them to know?

DUNSHEE: Well, there comes a time when you just become so weary that you just don't want to think about it anymore. You just want to smile and laugh again and - but you're almost afraid that someone will think you're callous or unfeeling if you do that. But I know they're going to feel the same way. They're going to be so saturated with this for so long. I just hope that somehow these tragic events don't get tied to the season so that these people will, again, be able to feel that peace and understanding that, you know, that the holidays are supposed to bring.

BLOCK: Well, Chris Dunshee, it's very good to talk to you again. Thank you so much.

DUNSHEE: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Chris Dunshee was the principal of Red Lake High School in Minnesota during the school shooting there in 2005. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.