In downtown Perry, Iowa, on Friday, residents wore blue to support each other, reflecting the school district’s mascot, the blue jay.

A Catholic priest offered grief counseling to shaken residents. The public library set up a “sympathy card” station to make cards for Dan Marburger, the principal of Perry High School and one of the victims of the school shooting on Thursday that claimed the life of a sixth grader.

Local residents spent much of Friday absorbing the violent act that had occurred just as school had resumed from winter break. The authorities said that a student, Dylan Butler, 17, had shot Mr. Marburger and five students, killing one. The gunman died from a self-inflicted gunshot, the police said.

To the people of Perry, a town of 8,000 about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines, the shooting struck an unusually intimate, painful chord. Neither the victims of the shooting nor the gunman were strangers: Mr. Marburger was a well-known figure in town, a friendly, outgoing educator — his daughter referred to him as a “gentle giant” — who cared deeply for his students.

Mr. Butler was described as a little odd by people who knew him, but not the kind of person they would suspect of violence. He was the son of Jack Butler, manager of the Perry Municipal Airport and the city’s former public works director, someone who Perry residents said was an active and generous member of the community.

“That’s pretty hard for a lot of people in town, just knowing them and like, we can’t possibly believe that that happened,” said David Sheffer, owner of the Tin Pig Tavern in Perry.

Claire Marburger, the daughter of the wounded principal, urged the public in a Facebook post to “show grace to the Butler family, as we are not our kids’ mistakes and actions or our parents’ mistakes and actions. Remember this is something Dylan’s family has to live with, too, as well as losing their child.”

She added that when she heard about the shooting, she instantly had a feeling that her father would be one of the victims.

“It is absolutely zero surprise,” she wrote, to hear that her father tried to approach the 17-year-old gunman, talk him down and distract him so that students could escape the cafeteria. “That’s just Dad.”

Mr. Marburger was in stable condition after undergoing surgery on Thursday.

Many people in Perry had a connection to the shooting. Lisa Christensen, a band instructor, was with a student on Thursday morning when they heard gunshots coming from the hallway, forcing them to hide in a storage room. When she checked her phone in hiding, Ms. Christensen saw a text from her daughter urging her to run.

“My main concern was just making sure that the kids were safe and that everybody was safe,” she said.

She said she went to one of the vigils on Thursday night. “I think the town is broken,” she said. “We all have kids that go to school.”

Jennifer Zelaya, 32, who lives in Perry and works at Tyson Foods, has a younger sister who attends Perry High School and was there early on Thursday for jazz band practice.

“My sister saw one person on the floor,” she said. “It’s incredible it happened here because of all these friendly people.”

Iowa has moved toward looser gun laws in recent years. In 2021, Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed into law a bill that allows Iowa residents to buy and carry handguns without a permit. The gunman on Friday was armed with a pump-action shotgun and a small caliber handgun, the police said, as well as an improvised explosive. There was no announcement of how he obtained the weapons.

But few people in Perry wanted to discuss politics, gun laws or the campaigning for the presidential caucus that swirled around them.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, asked about the shooting in Perry, said that he was someone parents could count on to “put the safety of our kids and the safety of our schools on the front burner.” Vivek Ramaswamy tied the shooting to the “mental health epidemic that’s spreading like wildfire across our country.”

In Perry, Pastor Jon Williams of First United Methodist Church, paused on Friday in the entryway of his church, saying that he was a gun owner but that the shooting at the school had given him doubts about the country’s gun laws.

“Do I think that guns need to be completely eradicated and taken away? No,” he said, adding: “But it sure does make you reconsider after seeing what had happened here. It sure does make you rethink.”

Leah McBride Mensching and Molly Longman contributed reporting.

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