Columbine Revisited

Has it been 10 years already? The anniversary of the deadly shooting at Columbine High School is less than a month away and as I dive back in to the story I'm flooded with memories of that Tuesday. I haven't really thought about Columbine much over the last few years, except on the painful occasions when another disturbed youth goes ballistic and takes it out on his classmates. It happened just recently in Germany. Virginia Tech was another shocking reminder of how helpless we can be when a motivated killer has fellow students in his sight. Now it's time to revisit Columbine again. With the 10th anniversary upon us I can't help but remember that day and the many days that followed as we covered the story for NBC News.

I was up in Boulder working on another story when all hell broke loose and we were told to get to Littleton fast. I remember driving, writing, talking on the phone all at the same time, trying not to collide in traffic. I didn't know where the school was. The roads were closed. I parked my car a distance away and hitched a ride to where the media was gathered. I was one of the first on the scene and we started doing live shots. I don't think I returned to my car for two days. The names of the fallen still ring in my ears. Dave Saunders, Lauren Townsend, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Schoels, Daniel Mauser, Cassie Bernall, Steve Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Rohrbough, John Tomlin, Kyle Velasquez.

We were there with the first responders and in the early chaos it was a blur. It wasn't until the reinforcements arrived from NBC News (and there were so many of them who came from all over the country) that I really had time to absorb the incredible scope of the story. For three weeks we were booking, producing, doing live reports, talking to families and friends of victims, talking to survivors of the horror, attending funerals. Finally that first weekend I was able to breathe and took a walk at Clement Park along the memorial fence and completely fell apart. I brought my children. We read the notes, saw the candles, stuffed animals and flowers. The whole world was grieving. There was an aftermath of confusion and compassion.

Ten years later, what have we learned? We still hold our guns as dear as our children. Perhaps we're better at preventing massacres but now and again some troubled teen like Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold bursts through our defenses and there is carnage again. Andrew Robinson, a senior at Columbine on April 20, 1999, has created a movie called "April Showers." It is not a documentary but rather a theatrical piece about a school shooting "based on actual facts." You see where he got his inspiration. So much of Columbine is recognizable. At the end of the movie there is a scroll of all the people who have died during school shootings in the U.S. The list is so long. Kent State, Virginia Tech, Columbine, on and on. Viewers watch silently. Taking it in.

As the anniversary approaches, we are hooking up again with those we met 10 years ago. They have all kept on going. Pushing through the pain. Remembering their loved ones in positive ways. They have also done remarkable things during the journey to turn a horrible day into a teaching moment. Darrell and Craig Scott take Rachel's Promise into schools so kids will learn to love each other. Schools have worked hard to teach tolerance, stop bullying and become safer. The buildings are not impenetrable but they are better. Those whose lives were changed forever on that day are coming forward again, perhaps for the last time, to make sure no one ever forgets Columbine. After all, there are still lessons to learn from that deadly day at school.


Leave a comment