A delegation of former students who survived the 2005 school shootings on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota traveled to Newtown, Connecticut, to offer comfort and compassion to the grieving community after the horrific killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14 that left 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six of their teachers dead.
The former Red Lake students, now in their 20s, and others left Minnesota in a three-vehicle caravan on Wednesday, December 19, heading east on a 1,500-mile journey to offer solace and solidarity to the survivors and community of the latest school shootings, the Associated Press reported. Many of the former Red Lake students were ninth graders in 2005 when an armed 16-year-old student killed his grandfather and grandfather's girlfriend and then drove to the Red Lake school, where he smashed through a classroom window and killed five students, a teacher and a security guard before killing himself. Five others were wounded in the shooting spree.
"We know exactly what those kids and families are going through," Leah Cook told AP. Cook, aged 16 at the time, still bears a mark where a bullet grazed her leg as she fled her classroom. "We want to share with them what we went through and show them that there's hope and let them know they're not alone."
Besides wanting to offer solace, they were doing what had been done for them: A delegation of Columbine High School students had visited Red Lake after enduring their own 1999 shooting that left a dozen students and a teacher dead, with 23 wounded.
The Red Lake delegation arrived in Newtown on Thursday, December 20, the Norwalk Citizen reported. They were to meet with Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers and families to present tribal flags signed by children, a dream catcher, and a memorial plaque that the Columbine delegation of students had brought to Red Lake in 2005, with the understanding that they would pass it on in the event of a shooting at another school. The Columbine survivors had received the plaque from survivors of a previous school shooting, the Norwalk Citizen said.
An elementary school–age Red Lake group, the Little Thunderbirds, sang traditional Native American songs to honor the Newtown community on Thursday afternoon, the Norwalk Citizen said. A ceremony was scheduled for Thursday night, for which the Dakota 38 Memorial Ride sent prayer ties. The Dakota 38 Memorial Ride is a group that commemorates the December 26, 1862, massacre of 38 Dakota men In Mankato, Minnesota, in what was then the largest mass execution in the history of United States.