Weather Forecast


Red Lake grads to offer comfort to Connecticut families

Justin Jourdain, a 2008 graduate of Red Lake High School who was in the school during the shootings that occurred there in 2005, stands with a Red Lake Band of Chippewa flag signed by people from the reservation. Jourdain and others are taking two signed flags on a trip to Newtown, Conn., to offer comfort to the grieving community in the wake of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Monte Draper / Bemidji Pioneer

Justin Jourdain is among the few people who just might be able to understand.

Jourdain, a 2008 graduate of Red Lake High School, was in the school on March 21, 2005, when 16-year-old Jeff Weise shot and killed five students, a teacher and a security guard before killing himself.

Jourdain now is leading 10 Red Lake graduates in a three-vehicle caravan to Newtown, Conn., leaving today to offer comfort to the grieving community in the wake of Friday's tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which killed 26 people, including 20 young children.

"It brings up a lot," said Jourdain, who was a freshman at the time of the deadly Red Lake shooting. "All of the memories from 2005, they all came back. We're dealing with it. It is hard."

He planned the trip knowing firsthand the benefit of connecting with other school-shooting survivors. Following the Red Lake tragedy, the community was visited by two women who survived the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.

"It helped a lot, just knowing there are other people out there who understood what we were going through," Jourdain said Tuesday.

The Red Lake shooting followed the Sept. 24, 2003, shooting at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minn., when 15-year-old John Jason McLaughlin shot and killed two fellow students.

Jourdain, now an officer with the Red Lake Department of Public Safety, was on duty when he first heard about the Newtown shootings. He soon came up with the idea of going to Connecticut, in essence carrying on what Carpenter helped begin in 2005.

"To see it go full circle is really powerful," Carpenter said. "All the time I was there (in Red Lake), I hoped I was making a difference, and to hear that I did is really special. It's a really unique feeling."

Red Lake graduates will carry with them a signed Red Lake Band of Chippewa flag and patches from local emergency units, including Red Lake police, fire and EMS departments.

Jourdain's plan grew quickly after he posted on Facebook that he was seeking donations to fund the trip. His request swiftly spread through the country as people reposted his message and sought financial assistance on his behalf.

It wasn't long before Jourdain was getting messages and calls from across the country.

First National Bank of Bemidji is accepting donations toward the travel expenses. To donate by mail, write "RLBCI Newtown collection" on the check and mail it to First National Bank of Bemidji, P.O. Box 670, Bemidji, MN 56619-0670.

Bethany Wesley writes for the Bemidji Pioneer