SPOKANE — Six friends on a hike in Sequim discussed their shock and horror over the reported harassment of a Spokane family in Forks and brainstormed what to do about it.
“It felt like such a tragedy and so not representative of who we are,” said Lisa Bridge, one of the six along with her husband Joe, Ankur Shah and Miriame Cherbib, and Jess and Curt Haugen.
“We wanted to make a simple human-to-human expression of empathy,” Bridge said.
At that time, the family’s name had not been made public and they didn’t know how to reach them. All they knew was that the family was from Spokane.
So they decided to run a letter of apology as an ad in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, hoping the family would see it. It was at the bottom of the front page on Thursday.
“As residents of Clallam County, we are saddened and disgusted by the threats and violence that your family encountered while trying to enjoy the beauty of our home out on the Olympic Peninsula,” the ad reads in part.
“We apologize for the frightening experience you had, and can only hope you take the actions of the four local high school students who helped you as more representative of our county than those who sought to terrorize you.”
It’s signed “From hundreds of Clallam County families.”
The family of Shannon Lowe reported being harassed, followed to their campsite and blocked from leaving for a time by trees felled across the road on June 3, according to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, which continues to investigate.
They were terrified during what was supposed to be a relaxing outing in their converted white bus to visit the site of the fictional Twilight books and movies and camp in the forest, Lowe said in a Wednesday interview with the Peninsula Daily News that was published Friday.
Antifa members were falsely rumored on the internet to be heading in buses to rural areas of the U.S., and had been rumored that same day to be heading in buses to a protest against racial injustice in Sequim on June 3. A few armed men showed up at the protest, which was peaceful.
Although the family’s experience was some 70 miles from Sequim, “I don’t make a lot of distinction,” said Shah, a native of Sequim who describes himself as a person of color. “It is the Peninsula. It is our home.”
The group drafted the letter while at the Dungeness Spit and put it on social media on Sunday. In less than 24 hours, it had been signed by 100 people from all over Clallam County, Shah said. By the time, he took it to the Spokesman-Review, it had 200 signatures.
“That really represents the Peninsula I grew up with,” he said.
Shah said people have dropped by his house to make donations.
“There has been an amazing outpouring of solidarity,” he said.
Apologies also have been issued by the Forks City Council and the Forks Chamber of Commerce.
Bridge said she hoped apologies wouldn’t be the end of it.
“This isn’t supposed to be just a feel-good moment,” she said.
“It needs followup. There are actions to be taken in our county.”
The letter ends with an offer to “break bread with you and make amends.”
Shah said he and his friends often hosted dinner parties pre-COVID-19.
“We’d love to have them over and give them the vacation they should have had, take them around to the beautiful spots here,” Shah said. “I would like to treat them the way I would have wanted my vacation to unfold.”
Lowe could not be reached for comment this weekend. Bridge and Shah didn’t know if the family saw the letter.
“The way they would contact us is they would contact the paper,” Shah said.
“I don’t have any expectations. I just wanted them to know that that’s not how we are in Clallam County.
“If I were them, I don’t know that I would want to come back here,” he continued.
“It would take a lot of courage. It would be a beautiful act. But I wouldn’t expect it.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].