Columbine Survivors Reflect, and Count on the Spectrum of Future Gunfights



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LITTLETON, Colorado – It's here that I hid from gunmen, told the survivors to their children. It is there that armed men entered the school, they added. This is how I escaped.

Twenty years after the attack on Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, by two students, killing 12 of their peers and one teacher, and marking the beginning of an era of school threats and large-scale shootings, Columbine survivors are now parents.

On Saturday, the anniversary day of the attack, many of these survivors returned to school, walking down the halls with their children before heading to a memorial in a nearby park. The faces of their fallen comrades appeared on a video screen as armed deputies stood nearby and the sun fell behind the Rocky Hills.

For the survivors, it was both a celebration of their rebirth and a lament for a harsh reality: the violence they suffered could also affect their children. The events of the past week, including a The search for an armed woman throughout the region who, according to authorities, was "infatuated" with the shooting in Columbine and "extremely dangerous" only made it stand out.

"I'm terrified of sending my son to high school next year," said 37-year-old Kari Bryan, who was a senior in Columbine during the attack. She is now the mother of four children. "It was only when my kids started school that I realized how much it affected me," she said. On the first day of her eldest son's kindergarten, she sat in her car and cried for hours.

In some ways, a lot has changed since the shooting in Columbine. Locking exercises are commonplace in schools across the country. Colorado has used Safe2Tell, a phone line for reporting potential hazards, and has passed laws that require a background check of all arms buyers and allow authorities to confiscate firearms from potentially dangerous people. From now on next year, every elementary school in the Jefferson County Public School District, where Columbine is located, will have an expert in social and emotional development.

But nationally, the country was unable to stop the shootings as officials worked to fill gaps in mental health care and gun advocates and gun control advocates fought for appropriate preventive measures. Many in Colorado thought the Columbine attack would be a horrible, unforgettable memory. Instead, they have seen similar attacks happen again and again. In 1999, new writers seem to have found inspiration.

36-year-old Tami Diaz, another survivor, said, "Everything has to be healed again, it's like tearing a scab."

On the memorial, hundreds of people have invaded the lawn near the school, many of them pushing strollers or carrying children on their shoulders. Some wore t-shirts with the effigy of Colombine, a five-petal plant that is the state's flower.

A sign bearing the names of the victims: Cassie Bernall. Steven Curnow. Corey DePooter. Kelly Fleming. Matthew Kechter. Daniel Mauser. Danny Rohrbough. Dave Sanders. Rachel Scott. Isaiah Shoels. John Tomlin. Lauren Townsend. Kyle Velasquez.

On stage, Sean Graves, of the 2002 promotion, said he was hit six times during the attack, resulting in 49 operations.

He now has a 3 year old daughter. "I did not really understand what my parents had experienced before putting me in their shoes," he said. "It took me a baby to really understand."

His friend Patrick Ireland, promotion 2000, then said he was shot twice in the head. Regarding healing, he told the crowd, "many of us are still working in this process.

In the audience, Missy Mendo, Class of 2002, was holding her eleven-month-old daughter Ellie on her hip. Having a child, she said, had been both curative and terrifying. After the shooting, Ms. Mendo had terrible insomnia. When she could sleep, she was doing it with her shoes, convinced that she should run at all times.

Ellie was proof of her own healing, she said, a sign that the culprits had not won.

But she began to worry about her daughter's safety as soon as she learned she was pregnant. Ellie crawled across the field, a green lollipop in her mouth.

"I have not had anxiety for many, many years," Ms. Mendo said. She is now starting to shake when she thinks about sending Ellie to school. The period leading up to the anniversary was similar to the initial climb on a roller coaster, she added, in which tension rises as the runner moves away from more and more people. Security. "It's the fear of not being able to protect her."

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