Nate Hatch, a survivor of the Oct. 24 shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School, returned home Thursday from a Seattle hospital.
More than 200 friends and family gathered along the road leading onto the Tulalip Indian Reservation to welcome him. Just before 1 p.m., he was driven past the well-wishers in a black tribal police SUV.
Hatch, 14, was shot in the face by his cousin Jaylen Fryberg after Fryberg texted a group of teens asking them to meet him for lunch, authorities said.
Once seated at a round table in the school’s main cafeteria, Fryberg opened fire with a handgun before taking his own life. The shootings took the lives of Zoe Galasso, Gia Soriano and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, all 14.
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The fifth shooting victim, Andrew Fryberg, 15, remained in critical condition Thursday in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center.
Hatch spent nearly two weeks at Harborview. On Thursday, the hospital released a statement of behalf of the Hatch family, thanking the community for support and repeating a request for privacy while he recovers.
“We are grateful for the top-notch care Nate received from the team at Harborview Medical Center,” they wrote. “Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families who have been affected by this horrific tragedy.”
Those awaiting Hatch’s arrival in Tulalip turned out with hand-painted posters and banners, despite wind and rain. Young people donned Marysville Pilchuck T-shirts.
Among those gathered were visitors from the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, where a school shooting also occurred, in 2005. The Red Lake visitors sang songs while they waited.
Passing drivers honked and waved.
“We are all excited that he is coming home,” said Tony Hatch, a Tulalip tribal member and Marysville Pilchuck assistant wrestling coach. “A lot of prayers have been answered. He’s still got a long way to go, but this is a glad day.”
The coaches hope Nate Hatch can return to the wrestling team next year, said Tony Hatch, who helped organize the homecoming using email and Facebook. People who couldn’t come asked others to “scream louder for them,” he said.
“We wanted to let him know how much he is loved,” Tony Hatch said.
Football teammate Kaleb Gobin, 16, and others were there to show support for Nate Hatch and his family. Teachers also walked over from nearby Quil Ceda Elementary School.
“I hope he heals up fast, and well,” Gobin said. “I hope everyone can come together now for healing.”
Healing will take time, tribal Councilwoman Theresa Sheldon said. Tulalip Police Chief Carlos Echevarria was driving Nate Hatch home from the hospital, gatherers said.
“Truly, we want Nate to know he’s not alone in all this,” Sheldon said.
The Seattle Times contributed to this report.