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Monke: Questions aside, Trinity will be fine

Like a lot of other people in southwest North Dakota, I’m a Lutheran who is friends with a lot of Catholics.

For me, it goes back to high school when I met a handful of Trinity kids and found that, despite what us small-towners had heard, they weren’t the arrogant “big city” kids some thought they were. A few of those guys have become lifelong friends and, through them, I’ve met many other great friends and people along the way.

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One of those guys woke me up Monday with a text message while I was laying in a hotel bed on vacation. He asked if I had heard about the fire at Trinity High School. He didn’t have many details but knew school was canceled. Wondering just how serious it was, we theorized it was something small — maybe an electrical fire — that could probably be dealt with. He had driven by and said the outside of the building looked OK.

So, I assigned the story to one of our reporters and got back to the last day of my vacation.

We all soon learned the fire wasn’t some little disturbance. It has become a tragedy for everyone connected to the school — life-altering for some, including several teachers who have spent their entire careers there — made worse when the community learned the person allegedly responsible for the blaze that left the building unusable was the school’s first-year principal, Thomas Sander.

Less than a week after the fire, Trinity has rallied in fine form.

They’ve received some outstanding help from Dickinson Public Schools and Dickinson State University, who should both be commended. The public school district especially has stepped up and, despite a minority of detractors, did the right thing by clearing what little space they could in their already overcrowded buildings simply so Trinity students could have a normal environment for classes. Beginning Monday, Trinity’s band will begin rehearsing at DSU.

But as the kids go back to class, more details will certainly emerge about the fire. Including, “Why?” Why did this happen? Why, if Sander is indeed guilty of arson, did he start a fire knowing full well that one of the school’s teachers lived in the building?

Furthermore, some parents have many questions for the Dickinson Catholic Schools Board of Education and believe they should be allowed to have more involvement in what happens as the school rebuilds and cleans up. The board should listen to them and allow the parents to have an organized voice.

But there’s still a lot of time to answer questions. In fact, school leaders have acknowledged they don’t know the whole story yet. Answers don’t always come immediately in a situation like this.

In the end, Trinity will persevere. As a school with religious foundations, they’re built for this. They won’t let the actions of one person destroy something generations have built over five decades.

As the red T-shirts you’ll undoubtedly see Monday night at the Region 7 girls basketball tournament say, they are “Titan Strong.”

Monke is the managing editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at, tweet him at monkebusiness and read his past features and columns at

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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