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 Tuesday 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.
Day of Remembrance
The tribe has declared Tuesday a Day of Remembrance, and all tribal services will be closed. Red Lake High School will be open, at the request of students and staff. Counselors will be on hand, but no regular classes will be held. A moment of silence will be held in the morning, and school will be 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 are holding memorial dinners to honor their loved ones. Alicia White’s family also plans 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.
Young father remembered
Alex Roy, 15, is among the many who will need more time.
Chase Lussier, 15, was her boyfriend, and the couple had a son just a couple of months before the attack. The pair planned to get married, and Chase often talked about how they would have a big family — enough boys to make their own basketball team.
Alex spent the past year watching little Ayden Chase Lussier take his first steps and have his first birthday — without Chase to share it.
“It was a happy time to see her son do things like that, but then at times it was hard for her because every time she knew she had to watch him do any of this without him,” said Sue Roy, Alex’s mother.
Sue and Alex Roy planned to spend a quiet day Tuesday visiting Chase’s gravesite and the gravesites of other shooting victims.
Some ceremonies already have been conducted. St. Mary’s Mission, a Catholic church on the reservation, held a week of prayer last week. Every day, a Mass was held in honor of one or more victims, including Weise, the gunman.
A memorial dinner for Alicia White is planned for Saturday. Her younger sister, 11-year-old Andrea White, put together a memory book filled with pictures of Alicia. The event will include a buffet dinner and music.
Alicia was a cheerleader who wanted to go into the Army and eventually become an FBI agent. She loved school and worked hard to get good grades, Spike said.
Spike has two memorial tattoos of her daughter, including a portrait of her daughter with the words “Baby Girl” etched above it on her left arm.
Spike said she still has feelings of anger and depression. She has journals, in which she writes letters to Alicia a couple times a month, telling her how much she misses her.
“Even though it’s been a year,” Spike said, “I’m just devastated by it, by her being gone.”