Columbine High School – I Remember

There are moments in history and in your life (similar to what we are experiencing right now), that will be forever ingrained into your mind. You remember where you were, you remember what you were doing….time stood still.

Some of you may just see a flower in this pictures, but to me, this flower paints a picture of an event that occurred 21 years ago yesterday. As Queen Elsa would say, ‘it’s a memory frozen in time’. I was a sophomore in high school – a high school located just a few miles away from Columbine High School. I remember it vividly, as I was walking from my classroom to the locker room to get ready for a regional track meet. The track athletes were dismissed early that day as this was one of the final meets of the season.

It was during 3rd period, and as I entered the C Hallway to walk toward the locker room, someone said ‘there is someone with a gun at Columbine’. At this time point a few of us had congregated in the C Hallway trying to figure out what was going on. TV’s were a new thing in classrooms at this point, but all classroom instruction has stopped as teacher turned on the news, we looked in through the classroom window to watch. We all watched in silence as the news coverage aired students hanging of out windows, running and sobbing down the street and first responders trying to find the gunmen. It all unfolded in front of our eyes…. we were located so close to Columbine, so naturally most of us knew people and had friends that attended Columbine.

This hadn’t happened before…. we continued toward the locker room in disbelief trying to process what we just saw. It was surreal. The track meet happened that day, and I’ll never forget approaching the long jump runway and hearing the announcer come over the PA with updates…”the were 2 gunmen, they are deceased”, “15 students/ teachers deceased, an additional 24 are injured”. Even though this was a regional track meet and all athletes were competing against one another…it wasn’t a competition at all. All of us athletes were a source of comfort for one another, we weren’t competing against each other, we were competing with each other. Think about that for a minute…..

This day and the days following, time stood still. The air was still, it was unusually quite, the sounds of sirens and visions of students jumping out of windows and running out of the building clouded our minds. Schools were closed as bomb threats rolled in like a tsunami after an earthquake. The names of the victims are familiar, their faces carved into our hearts.

This was the beginning of locked doors in schools, security presence and active shooter lock down drills. It was the beginning of a new normal.

I tell you this story for two reasons:

  1. The victims of the Columbine High School massacre deserve to be remembered, their lives celebrated and their courage acknowledged.
  2. We are living in a moment that will be commemorated in history books. It will and has changed us. It has given us perspective on what is truly important to us. It has forced us to assess what from our old ‘normal’ we want to adjust as we come out of this pandemic.

Above all, be gentle with each other. Smile (even behind your mask) at a stranger in the grocery store. Talk to people with a kind voice, ask them how they are doing and truly listen…and have the courage of Coach Dave Sanders as he saved so many lives as he sacrificed his own.

Make the effort to be kind with your loved ones and strangers. 21 years ago we were shown how fragile life can be. Six weeks ago, our world shifted and we were forced to reassess our priorities.

Columbine High School – April 20, 1999 – WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER