'School shootings are not normal': People gather at Thurston vigil to remember those lost

A 15-year-old shot and killed students Ben Walker and Mikael Nickolauson and wounded 26 others May 21, 1998, at Thurston High School, after killing his parents the day before. Memorials on campus pay tribute to those killed and injured - and call for a more peaceful future. (SBG)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - On the 20th anniversary of the Thurston High School shooting, where two students were killed and 25 other injured, people filled the William S Fort Memorial Park to honor those who were affected by the tragedy and reflect on gun violence in schools across the nation.

For many, it was night to reflect, as well has honoring those who have been lost to gun violence.

Community members covered the lawn at William S Fort Memorial Park to pay respect to all of those affected by the Thurston shooting on its anniversary day.

They listened to others who survived the shooting and have grown through the tragedy.

Right across the street form the park is Thurston High School, where students and staff lined the fence with flowers in honor of the anniversary. An assembly was held at the permanent memorial on the school grounds.

One man who remembers the day well is Springfield Police Officer Darin Vetter, who responded to the Thurston shooting 20 years ago while off-duty at the time.

"School Resource Officer position wasn't created until after the shooting," said Vetter. "So it was in the proposal stage at that point, so this just kind of solidified that."

Now, Vetter is the resource office at Thurston High School.

"It's a time to remember it can happen anytime, anywhere," said Vetter. "It's already happened here once, and we do what we can do to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Current students of Thurston High also honored those who were affected by gun violence across the nation.

Rio Samiego, a junior at Thurston, spoke at the candle-light vigil. His message was not only to offer sympathy to the families and individuals who have been affected by gun violence, but also for the community to offer solutions.

"Whether you support gun control or not, you can still acknowledge that it's a problem that we have to deal with," said Samaniego. "School shootings are not normal, and that we should support victims and remember the families and survivors."

Tuesday's vigil officially wrapped up just after 9:00 p.m., but people hung around for some time afterwards, conversing, hugging and supporting each other.

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