March 22, 2005
Bemidji, Minn. — Friends and family gathered at the North Country Regional Hospital in Bemidji, waiting for news on loved ones. Ashley Morrison, a student at Red Lake High School, was in the cultural room when the shooting started.
Morrison says she wasn't sure what was going on. Then she saw Wiese walk by the class room with a gun. She heard several shots.
"I could hear my friend screaming. And he shot her and there was no more screaming, and we knew she had died," Morrison said.
Morrison and several other students escaped before they could be harmed.
Wiese has been described as a loner. Someone who wore long black coats and was picked on by classmates. Morrision described Wiese as scary and weird.
Audrey Thayer, the head of the local ACLU, says the shooting is tragic. But she says people need to remember Wiese had a lot of tragedy in his life. His mother lives in a nursing home after being seriously injured in a car accident. His father committed suicide four years ago. Thayer says people need to see Wiese beyond stereotypical descriptions.
"I know there was some discussion of media portraying that the kids were picking on this young guy in high school," says Thayer. "You always have jabs at each other. Look further back, and see what the history of this young man was."
About 100 or so people gathered at the hospital in Bemidji for what organizer Bob Shimek called an interfaith prayer service. People from Bemidji, Red Lake and surrounding communities gathered in a circle, while tribal elders burned sage and smoked ceremonial pipes.
Shimek says the prayer circle is a way to bring the community, Indian and white, together.
"Making that expression in the Indian way, of support and understanding and healing. We have to start a long process of healing now," Shimek said.
For an hour, elders prayed and shared stories. In the middle of the ceremony, an eagle circled overhead.
Michael Dahl was among the last to speak. He told how he believed that it was the presence of spiritual objects that saved lives. Dahl was speaking to students at the school when the shooting broke out.
"The school's eagle staff, the school's pipe and drum was in that room," said Dahl. "And I believe with all of my heart -- because I was using tobacco and talking with those kids, and I was talking about our way and about these things -- that the staff and the drum didn't let that boy see us."
Dahl, who described the scene as "nutty as hell," was able to lead 15 kids out of the building to safety.
"I saw fear. I saw panic. I saw, 'I want my mommy, I want my daddy,'" said Dahl. "I saw them kids pull together and they held each other. That's what I saw -- those kids looking out for each other."
Dahl says now is the time for the adults to come together and bring their communities back together.