About the shooting

KIDS STEP INTO THE LINE OF FIRE AS TRUE FIRST RESPONDERS

New Wesco Athletics photographer and Kamiak parent Meghan Fortier captured a moment in time at the highly attended Kamiak vs. Mariner game before a nearby shooting left fans and players in utter chaos.

You’re gonna hear a lot of bullshit about Friday’s shooting at Goddard Stadium: Ghetto school. Gang-banging thugs. #FuckMariner. Thanks to staff and administrators, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department… Blah blah blah.

I know better. I was there — right in the middle of the action, after “Shots fired!” “Take cover!” and “Run!” I watched hundreds of kids rush the exits, trampling over each other, quite literally. I also watched these kids take on the job of First Responders, mostly Mariner kids, the football players, some from Kamiak.

Amazing, unsung local heroes. Amazing stories you’ll probably never hear in social media, the news, or those annoying school notices.

But this is not my story. I already told mine here and here.

This is theirs…

Urrutia with his ride-or-die…

When I heard a loud sound, at first I thought it was thunder. But then I saw everybody running. That’s when I noticed there was something worse, so I had to run too. During the chaos, all I remember was all of my teammates trying to find their families and get everybody to calm down. Some of the players were escorting people out. I also remember two of my teammates helping the kids with disabilities who were having a little panic attack.

I wasn’t scared for my family, because I knew they were with my dad. Trust me, he’s seen it all.

Jorge Urrutia also plays for the Varsity baseball team. Here, he’s about to bunt at last spring’s game. Mariner won, of course.

Every time I tell someone I’m from Mariner, they give me that dirty look like it’s a bad thing. [That night] everyone was acting reckless. Only people who weren’t freaking out were our players, because it’s not our first time. Those are the moments you find out who the real leaders are.

— Jorge Urrutia, #17, Mariner Marauder junior kicker

“Caleb took off running, had jumped the fence, and was almost to safety when someone asked him if he’d seen his cousin… He immediately jumped right back over those fences and ran back to the stand to find his cousin.” —Mom, Luv

It was fourth quarter and everybody was having a great time, because of the score (40–13), but I saw a couple of cop cars drive by with their lights on, so I started looking around in that direction, just so that I’m aware of what’s going on around me. I heard a pop, but didn’t think much of it — until I saw some people starting to scatter. That’s when I told everybody on the field to get to an exit or just simply get off the field.

I was hurt, so I wasn’t able to play Friday. I didn’t have my family in the stands that night. I was thankful that I didn’t have to worry about finding them or them finding me in the crowd.

As I made my way through the crowd toward an exit, someone asked if I had seen my cousin, and my heart dropped for a second. I began to move people out of the way and tell them to head towards an exit and to clear out of the Stadium. After a minute or two, I found my cousin, and we continued to exit by the fire station.

Caleb Atoigue is the last person to talk about his accomplishments. “He doesn’t tell us these behind-the-scene things he does,” his mother Luv said. “We have to hear it from his friends, teachers, coaches, or parents. He’s so humble.” He’s also a hero.

After I got my cousin to a safe place, I started to help others find their family members, because the feeling of not knowing if a family member was safe was a mutual feeling. As people continued to clear out and panic began to really set in, I saw some of my peers crying and hyperventilating, so I did my best to calm them down, as did many other football players and other students.

The adults had gone towards the parking lot. I have no clue why. The police were there just to be there to be honest. People just cleared out any way they could.

Had I seen you, I would’ve put you behind me, as I made a way through the crowd.

Local heroes in action at Mariner’s Goddard Stadium, weeks before the terrifying shooter “incident.”

No matter what anybody has to say about Mariner or has heard about us…would’ve been proven wrong and then some, because, looking around, there were no adults in charge, just students comforting one another, students comforting kids who had lost their family throughout the chaos, football players carrying people who couldn’t walk. To me, these actions are that of future leaders, role models, nothing close to a bunch of “gang bangers and thugs.”

I’m more upset at the fact that the Mariner’s reputation that we work so hard to change just gets thrown down the drain over something we couldn’t control.

— Caleb Atoigue, #33, Mariner senior defensive lineman, linebacker

First, I saw about six cop cars driving down Fourth Avenue, then I saw people walking away from the entrance to the field. What I instantly thought was someone passed out, so I went to go look. That’s when everyone from the Mariner stands came mobbing towards the exit, running and screaming. While everyone was trying to get out the entrance, I was off to the side waiting for everyone to leave, that’s when I saw people hiding in the bathroom where me and a whole group of people went.

If you know Ryan Aceto, you know nothing fazes him. The sophomore athlete plans to keep going to Mariner football games to support his team—even though he attends another school now.

I didn’t think about hiding until someone hiding in the restroom signaled me over there. When we could leave, I just followed everyone to the fire station. I think there was one cop in the Stadium, but I wasn’t sure. Nobody helped me leave, I was just following everyone else…

This has never happened to me before at Mariner. I wasn’t scared. I was just calm the whole time. I didn’t think about anything, I was just trying to help other people if needed.

I’m probably still going to the Mariner games, because I gotta support my old teammates.

— Ryan Aceto, Archbishop Murphy sophomore football player, formerly with Mariner

Your heroes, the mighty Mariner Marauders.

“Leaving, I talked to two police officers: one who yelled at me to keep moving and get off campus, and another who took time out of his job with traffic, and personally looked up directions for me on his phone, so that I could get somewhere safe with my friends.” —Maxine Tonty

Well, it was truly chaotic, because of the confusion. I was in the front of the Kamiak section and we heard a group of students say someone’s been shot. [That group] then left toward where we (students in the front) assumed was where the shot student was… the main exit. Then, they returned, screaming to run in the opposite direction of where they came. Students who heard the commotion started pushing the students in the way who hadn’t heard — all in an attempt to get to the exit furthest from where the said shooter was.

We didn’t know if [the shooter was] inside or out. We just knew the stands were an easy target and we were in them.

Police didn’t say anything, only students, who should not have had that power or responsibility, as we know it only caused more harm.

Leaving, I talked to two police officers: one who yelled at me to keep moving and get off campus, and another who took time out of his job with traffic, and personally looked up directions for me on his phone, so that I could get somewhere safe with my friends.

The five shots fired from a car by some guy (who many students [allegedly] know, but I will not name for safety reasons) were not dangerous enough to have the whole stadium in a ruckus. Students made it seem like it was bigger than that, and caused fear and confusion in everyone. The announcer didn’t even say, “Hit the deck!” until after kids were “running for their lives” and crying in confusion. At least, I never heard it.

— Maxine Tonty, Kamiak junior

What struck me the most was that the adults were just as part of the chaos as the kids. It actually even scared me more and made me feel like the situation was worse than I believed it to be. I don’t think I expected the police to help us out with leaving the Stadium. I just assumed they were probably all taking care of the actual shooting situation outside. I was on the Kamiak side [of the bleachers]. We all went through the back exit toward the Kamiak buses [parked near the fire station]. It was on the opposite side of the main entrance… Yeah [I followed the crowd to an exit], it was more of pushed toward the exit from the people behind. There were so many people pushing, that some people were just kind of carried towards the exit. Very chaotic and out of control. I saw a girl fully flat on the ground being stomped on at the bottom of the stairs and the people running on top had no idea of it.

— Rishika Rana, Kamiak junior

I was at the very top of the stands. All of a sudden, I see people all the way at the bottom run in the opposite way of the usual exit of the Stadium. At first, I thought they were just trying to get somewhere fast, but [then], everybody around me was running. I couldn’t distinguish what the announcer was saying over the speaker, but my friend grabbed me and we started running, too. As we were moving, everybody ducked, and I still didn’t understand why, but I did it as well. I know people were screaming, I remember hearing people yelling at each other to not duck and to just leave. I knew I was in danger, but I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening. I kept hearing people scream, “Shots were fired!” but it didn’t click in my brain. I got up and saw Diego go around everyone ducking, and jump over the fence in front of the bleachers. I wanted to leave, so I did the same.

It wasn’t until I heard my friend Julissa at the very top, holding her sleeping sister, 5, that I realized what was actually happening, because I was frustrated that I couldn’t get them down with me. Once we were all down the bleachers, we ran to the fire station to figure out a way to leave.

I didn’t see many adults actually helping us move down the stands. They were more at the bottom, directing people towards the exit and I did think about it, because we could have evacuated easier if there were adults directing the kids, because they were all going crazy.

I was confused for the first half of the evacuation. Once we left the Stadium and started to walk to the fire station is when the fear started to kick in and I realized I had to call my momma.

Once we reached the fire station, cops were there. As soon as I got there, I heard people telling others to hide behind cars. The cops just stood there and told everyone to calm down and that we could either wait there or try to leave, but in the other direction.

I didn’t leave the fire station until I checked in with a few of my friends that I was able to find and made sure that they were okay and knew how they were getting home.

I haven’t [experienced a shooting before], which is why I was so surprised that I was able to stay calmer than I expected. But at the same time, I knew I had to because Julissa — [who met us at the fire station eventually] — was having a panic attack because she was scared for her little sister’s safety.

When we left, we walked towards Fourth Ave., not knowing the shooting actually took place there, to get picked up by another friend, who was going to take us to the Walgreen’s close by where my momma would pick us up and take us home.

On the walk there, I carried the little one on my back, because Julissa was shaking and crying and so was the little one.

I broke down as soon as I saw my brother and momma. Everything felt numb at the moment, but seeing their worried faces and tears of fright in my momma’s eyes made it all feel real in a second.

I cleared up, though, and held it in until we dropped my friends off at [their] home, because they were still scared out of their minds, and I knew that I had to help them breathe and let them know that we were okay now, and that we were on our way home. It wouldn’t have worked if they saw me crying as well.

After we dropped them off, though, I cried the whole way home and explained what I could to Isaiah and my momma through tears and heavy breaths. I had a really late anxiety attack. I didn’t sleep much that night either.

— Jay Flores, Kamiak junior

“I ducked and covered my head, but kept moving. Some people were taking shelter in large shipping containers, some were hiding in bushes, kids were hiding on the school busses. I could see people screaming all around me, but I couldn’t make out what anyone was actually saying.” —Meghan Fortier

About five or so minutes before 9 p.m., I hear what sounds like five gunshots. I have never heard gunshots in person. I didn’t grow up around guns and I am not a gun owner as an adult. I knew we were in a “bad” neighborhood in Everett, but I didn’t actually think I heard real gunshots. I thought it was odd, but figured it was fireworks or kids messing around. I kept looking over my shoulder at the Kamiak stands to see if there was any movement. I kept talking myself out of believing something was actually going on. I told myself I was being silly and over-reacting. A few minutes went by and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen. I checked over my shoulder again and saw my two boys about 10 yards behind me. Still by the fence. Still together. It was 9:01 and I decided to text my good friend jokingly, “Omg. At Mariner. Pretty sure shots were fired not too far away.” Right after sending that text, I saw three cop cars flying down Fourth Ave., one at a time. I got chills and thought that couldn’t be a coincidence. I then texted another friend who was at the game at 9:02 p.m., asking if she had heard gunshots. The game was still going on as usual.

If what I did hear were actual gunshots, the game wouldn’t keep going, right? The on-staff police would shut it down and warn us, right? Still, no one was moving, so I didn’t want to assume the worst, but I started walking towards my boys. That’s when all hell broke loose.

Everyone starts running. I lock eyes with my sons. I see the fear and the terror in their eyes as they look to me for direction. I freeze. I look at the game and it was STILL going on. The players couldn’t hear or see anything going on in the stands. The coaches hadn’t caught on. I don’t know where the actual threat is. I thought I heard gunshots in front of the school, but who’s to say the shooter isn’t behind the school now? Is the shooter INSIDE the stadium at this point?

I feel like this whole ordeal lasted forever. Seconds passed, but it felt like hours. I reached my boys, but there was a fence between us. This chain-link fence was preventing me from grabbing a hold of my kids and made me feel helpless. I don’t remember if anything was actually said, but I think I told my boys verbally to stay WITH me. The last thing I needed was the three of us to be separated. I needed to make a decision on where to go. Half of the stadium was running towards the front of the school and half was running towards the back parking lot. My instinct was to run towards the back parking lot and fire station since my car was there and I heard shots in the opposite direction. I ran along the fence with my boys until there was an opening in the fence and they could get to me. As soon as we were together, the announce over the loudspeaker shouts something but with all the screaming all I can make out is, “TAKE COVER!”

Hearing take cover made me immediately think it was an active shooter situation. My boys had come to the side of the fence, where we were all now on the field. Literally zero places to take cover. I realized we couldn’t stop. We had to keep running towards the car. I ducked and covered my head, but kept moving. Some people were taking shelter in large shipping containers, some were hiding in bushes, kids were hiding on the school busses. I could see people screaming all around me, but I couldn’t make out what anyone was actually saying. None of it made any sense.

On our way to the parking lot we passed an EMT or firefighter (I saw him quickly in passing, so I only know he was in uniform standing next to a red aid car). He looked as calm as could be. I was so confused. Was there a threat? Was there an active shooter? If so, why isn’t this EMT helping?? Why is he just standing there? At this point, I didn’t even care.

I managed to find my keys and get into the car. As my boys were jumping in, a student looks at me and asks if he can get in my car. I had no idea who this child was, I only saw the fear in his face. I didn’t hesitate. I said, “Yes, get in, let’s go.” We were able to get out of the parking lot and took the back roads out to 112thStreet. I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere near Fourth Ave.

I learned that the random student we picked up attends Kamiak and is a freshman. He was at the game with some friends and he got separated in the chaos. It turns out that he doesn’t live too far from us, so I decided to just take him home. I had my oldest text my friends who I knew were at the game, one of them having a football player on the field. My son texted them at 9:09 p.m. Only eight minutes had passed from the time I half-jokingly sent a text saying I heard gunshots to the time I was in my car driving away from the school. It had felt like we were living in this nightmare for a lot longer than eight minutes.

“When I heard a loud sound, at first I thought it was thunder. But then I saw everybody running. That’s when I noticed there was something worse, so I had to run too. During the chaos, all I remember was all of my teammates trying to find their families and get everybody to calm down. Some of the players were escorting people out. I also remember two of my teammates helping the kids with disabilities who were having a little panic attack.” —Jorge Urrutia

On the drive home, the boys were busy texting their friends, trying to see if they were still at the field and if they were safe. I managed to get a hold of my two friends who were at the game over the phone and knew that they were safe.

The boys and I talked about what we heard/saw. I told them about the calm EMT and my thought that there wasn’t an active shooter. We talked about whether or not the school had ever talked about what to do in the event of an active shooter while at sporting events. I was somewhat surprised that the answer was no. I understand that you can’t plan what to do at every venue, but at least touch base on what to do if we are at our home field. While it makes me so sad that my kids have active shooter drills at school, I am thankful that at least they know what to do if ever in that situation.

After we dropped off our new friend Dylan, I pulled over and searched the Internet for any news from the last 20 minutes. I read that there were in fact shots fired, but no one was hurt and the shooter fled the area.

We headed home and sat in our living room with the rest of our family. We talked about our night and I tried to stop shaking from all the adrenaline still pumping through my veins. I hugged both of my boys tight and thanked them over and over for staying with me and staying calm.

Shortly after returning home, I received an email from the school district that made me even more upset. They were right to send something out. They were right to stick to the facts. Where they went wrong is making it sound like the situation was handled in a calm and quick manner. That was not the case. The game was NOT stopped immediately. The grandstands were NOT “evacuated” by Mukilteo School District staff. Evacuate is defined in the dictionary as removing from a place of danger to a safe place. No one knew where this ‘safe’ place was. We had no clue what we were running towards. The superintendent should have stuck with the facts that the grandstands were emptied in a chaotic manner, but no one was physically injured.

As I lay awake in bed Friday night, I couldn’t help but wonder what I should have done differently. Should I have spoken up as soon as I heard the gunshots? Should I have grabbed my boys and bailed sooner? As an adult, should I have stuck around and helped these terrified children find their parents or rides? Who knows. All I do know is that I went into full mama-bear mode and selfishly thought only of my children and myself.

I am so mad at myself for encouraging my kids to go to THIS game. I am so mad at myself for putting them in this terrifying situation. The mama guilt is real. I wish I had stuck with my first idea of staying in and watching movies with my kids on Friday night. I don’t know if they will ever attend another high school game. I’m not quite certain I will be able to attend another football game. This one did some damage.

— Meghan Fortier, Wesco Athletics photographer, Kamiak parent

Sidebar:

What this is, and what this is not

A “devil’s advocate” parent asked on Facebook if my article was some kind of witch hunt “to hang people we all know you are not a fan of in the first place.” Meaning, the school administrators, staff, teachers, police, and others under government jurisprudence? He also questioned what I as an adult did during the shooting besides panic and point fingers, along with, “What good is going to come of this article? Who is it you are trying to hurt hear [sic]?”

This parent didn’t attend Friday’s game, of course. His children don’t even go to high school around here. They’re much younger, most likely still in that idyllic grade-school age of unicorns and rainbows and superhero teachers.

Let me make this clear: He wasn’t there. I was.

He clearly doesn’t know a damned thing about me. Or that I wrote an essay right after “The Incident at Goddard Stadium,” spilling my guts, venting — shaken up by my inability to do anything but stand like there like fucking idiot in an active shooter situation. I looked for but couldn’t find any adult in charge to help me move my ass.

He doesn’t know that I’m a reporter, a journalism major trained to seek out the truth and try like hell to see both sides, like a heat-seeking missile.

He doesn’t know that I wanted, desperately prayed to see First Responders come to our aid out there. I was scared to death, lost, confused, completely perplexed as to why they didn’t, why they waited just outside the Stadium.

After I made it out all by my lonesome, I determined that I would do right by these kids and do what I do best, tell their stories. That’s it. No hidden agenda.

I did the best I could with whatever resources and skills I had, to help — in my own way — even if that wasn’t charging at the shooter guns blazing, or leaping tall fences in a single bound, with a child on each arm. My idea of helping is to get the word out about what really happened to us in that Stadium.

Not the cleaned-up version the School District would have you believe.

Well over 200 attended the high school football game Friday. My husband said it was more like 1,000. Adults in charge were tasked with a responsibility to keep watch over the 1,000-plus estimated fans, parents, teens, little children, disabled kids, everyone. I do hold them responsible to do the right thing, not bail. Most of them, from what I and others observed, bailed. Not all, but enough, an alarming number.

This article isn’t a witch hunt, though. It’s a simple, basic interview with some of those who were at the shooting, what they saw, what they did, how they felt. It’s my small way of letting them know that they are heard, of letting them tell their stories without filter, censorship, the usual adult-supervised condescension and invalidation… without bullshit.

Real talk.

If you were there and you want to add to the stories, hmu.

Originally published at carolbankswebercoggie.wordpress.com on September 18, 2018.

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