- Politics and Social Issues
Columbine Survivors 10 Years Later
April 20 1999 - Columbine Remembered
April 20, 2009 marked the tenth memorial of the Columbine massacre. Most of us remember the events of that day with vivid clarity. We remember the victims who lost their lives and those responsible, but what happened to the survivors of the massacre at Columbine High?
Yes, there were survivors and they didn't merely survive the firearms that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried; they have had the courage to survive every day since. A survivor is someone who has seen the worst that humanity has to offer and still refuses to let go of their hope.
Even those who simply went on to become loving spouses and parents, who promised that the violence ended with them, did their part. They did more than most of us will ever do in a lifetime.
The life of another only becomes more precious when you have accepted how fragile your own life really is. Despite their experiences, many of the survivors of the Columbine High school shooting are determined to replace hate with hope.
Columbine 10 Years Later
Teaching From the Heart
It is difficult enough to imagine surviving a school shooting, but Mandy Cooke, Alise Williamson Steiner, Katie Tennessen, Brett O'Neill, and Cris Welsh did even more than that, the returned to Columbine High School as teachers.
Columbine is their school after all, and they say they couldn't imagine teaching anywhere else.
Read their amazing story here... 10 Years Later, Hope Triumphs At Columbine
Lessons From Columbine
Five Columbine survivors who went on to become teachers.
Very nearly the 14th victim, and one of the most seriously injured of the Columbine survivors, and is Anne-Marie Hochhalter. Left a paraplegic, it was difficult at first for her to move on with her life. Then her mother committed suicide. She had already suffered mental illness prior to the events at Columbine, and her state had only worsened. After this, Anne-Marie struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts.
It took Anna Marie awhile to get back into life, but she has blossomed into a beautiful, intelligent, and very capable young woman. She got a part-time job at a retail store, where she has worked for seven years while pursuing a bachelor's degree in business with an emphasis on management.
She is living on her own and has learned how to drive again. She has also developed a strong friendship with the Sue Townsend, who lost her step-daughter in the shootings.
Her father is a school safety advocate and now trains parents on how to respond to emergencies.
When we think of Columbine, it is hard not to remember Patrick Ireland. He was the boy we saw fall from the window into the arms of a SWAT team member below. Patrick had been shot twice in the head and once in the foot.
It took him three hours to crawl across the library and make it to the open window. The image of him falling from the window might be fresh in our minds, Patrick has no memory of it. His injuries also left him paralyzed on his right side. He had to relearn how to walk, talk, and eat again.
Patrick went on to graduate from Columbine High School as class valedictorian. He attended university and excelled there as well. He is now married, and successful in many areas of his life. "We have a choice in how we live our lives," says Patrick. "You wake up every single day and have a choice as living as a victim or a victor. When you choose to be a victor, you have so much more positive impact on how people view you and the way you want to live your life."
The Boy in the Window
Frank DeAngelis has been the principal of Columbine High School since 1979. He was there that day as shots rang out. His life was spared that day, and he does not take that for granted.
He led 20 students to safety that day and did not suffer any injuries, but the emotional scars ran deep. After Columbine his marriage crumbled, and he suffered anxiety attacks and survivor's guilt.
Through counseling and faith he made it through, and committed to sticking it out at Columbine until the kids who were freshmen that day graduated, but now he says he is planning on staying until those children who were in Kindergarten in 1999 have graduated.
He survived Columbine that day, and he has survived every day since. He no longer mourns the lives lost that day, including that of good friend and teacher Dave Sanders, instead he prefers to celebrate their lives. Seems he will remain at Columbine as long as he feels the students there need him.
He is also engaged to be married to his high school sweetheart.
"We will never get back to normal, we just had to redefine what normal is."
Craig Scott was only sixteen when he found himself trapped in the library while the shooters killed many of those around him. He escaped to safety only to find that his sister Rachel, 17, was one of the first people killed.
From that day on he dedicated his life to spreading a message of hope and love throughout America's schools. Through "Rachel's Challenge," a nonprofit started by his father, Craig promotes school safety through compassion.
He has spread his message to over a million people through public speaking, and plans to continue reaching out to others through film making.
Spreading the Word
Many movies have been produced about the events surrounding school shooters, but one writer/director has decided to focus on the survivors, and this one happens to come directly from the mind of an actual survivor.
Drawing heavily from his experiences that day and the days that followed, this writer and director tells the story from a new point of view. This story is fiction, so no rehashing of the Columbine tale is here, but what you will find is a well told story that all but leaves the shooters out of it. The shooter is mentioned only in passing, and the only video of the shooting is done in the form of reconstructed surveillance footage.
April Showers opened on April 24, almost ten years to the day after the shootings occurred.
"April Showers" Trailer
April Showers on DVD
I finally got the opportunity to see this movie and moving doesn't begin to describe the emotions this screenplay lays out. Very close to actual events, this fictional shooting is filmed through the eyes of someone who has been there.
Several Columbine survivors have gone on to share their stories in their own words. They were just normal American kids who went to school that day expecting nothing more exciting than a pop quiz, and in an instant their lives were changed.
Columbine Survivor Stories
There are many sites dedicated to Columbine. If you would like to know what has happened to some of the other survivors, please be sure to stop by and check them out.
- Never Forgotten
Columbine survivors dedicated to change
What has changed?
The addition of armed security, metal detectors, and strip-searches already had an effect on American schools before, but after Columbine we were terrified. Some insisted on tighter security, turning schools into prisons to prevent them from becoming warzones. Many schools now practice lock-down drills along with the standard fire drills.
What good has come from Columbine?
Many survivors realized that there had been enough hate. A large portion of students went on to become teachers, social workers, and activists for the cause of peace.
A victim is just a passive part of outside circumstances, but a survivor reaches out in whatever way they can to make a difference. Ten years later, many of the students who faced a brush with death have forgiven their attackers, and gone on to live successful lives.
Anti-bullying programs have been implemented in many schools, and they have worked. When students are taught to focus on compassion for other students, they learn to become observant and pick up on cues before it is too late.
When nearly half of American students polled said they didn't think teachers care about them personally, it was a wake-up call, and some schools and teachers actually listened. In schools where teachers take an active role as mentors, students open up to them more readily, they tell them when a student threatens to bring a gun. As a result, many similar plots have been prevented from becoming reality.
More parents now understand the danger signs, and are more likely to take action when a problem grows beyond their control.
Black box warnings are now required on anti-depressants and more people are aware of the dangers they pose for teenagers with still-developing brains.
We are overall more aware of the suffering of others, and that is important.
Yes, we have learned some of the lessons Columbine presented us with, but we still have a long way to go. School shootings continue to happen, and until we find a way to stop them entirely we still have many more lessons to learn.
Yet many of those survivors have something in common as well, perhaps the most important lesson of all...
"So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
~1 Corinthians 13:13
Susan Klebold and Oprah Magazine
"I Will Never Know Why"
For most of the ten years since Columbine, the parents of the shooters have remained silent. Much of that silence was misunderstood; with the number of lawsuits and legal actions pending, they really couldn't say much, even if they wanted to. Still, many have seen their silence as some sort of admission of guilt.
Susan Klebold has finally broken that silence in an essay that she wrote for O, The Oprah Magazine. She tells a heart-wrenching story of a mother who has spent every day since the events at Columbine asking herself what she missed.
We must not forget that Susan Klebold is a survivor too. We can only imagine what her life has been like since that day, the hell she has had to endure. She too lost a child, but she has to live with the added deaths of fourteen others. She too struggles to understand what her son did that day. She knows a nightmare that none of us can even begin to understand.
According to Oprah:"Since the day her son participated in the most devastating high school shooting America has ever seen, I have wanted to sit down with Susan Klebold to ask her the questions we've all wanted to ask-starting with "How did you not see it coming?" and ending with "How did you survive?" Over the years, Susan has politely declined interview requests, but several months ago she finally agreed to break her silence and write about her experience for O. Even now, many questions about Columbine remain. But what Susan writes here adds a chilling new perspective. This is her story.
Columbine 10 Years Later
In Loving Memory
(The following is the description for the video, but youtube formatting made it difficult to read, so I reformatted it here. I agree with the creator fully, REMEMBER)
March 24, 1998, in Craighead County, Arkansas, near northwestern Jonesboro. The attack was carried out by Mitchell Johnson, age 13, and Andrew Golden, age 11.
Buell Elementary On February 29, 2000, 6 year old Dedrick Owens found a .32 caliber handgun in his uncle's home. During a class changing period, Owens shot classmate Kayla Rolland. At 6 years old, Rolland is believed to be the youngest school shooting victim in U.S. history. T
Red lake High The Red Lake High School massacre was a school massacre that took place on March 21, 2005 in which Jeffrey Weise, a student at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, killed seven people including a teacher and a security guard. Weise shot his grandfather, Daryl "Dash" Lussier, with a .22 pistol while Lussier was sleeping.He shot Michelle Sigana, Lussier's girlfriend when she returned home.Weise then drove his grandfather's squad car to school. He proceeded down a hallway firing at students, killing five students and a teacher and injuring seven others.
Columbine High A school shooting took place on April 20, 1999, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher, and wounded 24 others, before taking their own lives. The massacre made headlines around the world, making Columbine a household name, and causing a moral panic in American high schools.
Virginia Tech April 16, 2007, on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people before committing suicide, making it the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Thurston High On May 20, 1998, student Kipland "Kip" Kinkel killed his parents. On May 21, 1998, he arrived at class at Thurston, murdering 2 of his classmates, Ben Walker and Mikael Nicklauson, and injuring 25. Kinkel was subdued by fellow students, at least one of which had himself been shot.
Platte Canyon High School an incident that occurred at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado, on September 27, 2006. 53-year-old Duane Roger Morrison entered the school building, claiming to be carrying a bomb. Morrison took six female students hostage and sexually assaulted them, later releasing four.
Note from creator: A video about the many people that are killed in school shootings. Never forget them. Songs used in film. I had to change the song to: "Tippy's Demise" by Stars of the Lid Sorry, I couldn't couldn't give credit in the video to the new song because I couldn't update the video. I got many of the photos from photobucket. home.earthlink.net/~gflynn/gallery acolumbinesite Westside Middle Buell Elementary Red lake High Columbine High Virginia Tech Thurston High Platte High Weston High Rocori High Henry Foss High Santana High Campbell High Westside Middle
Looking For More?
- Lessons From Columbine
More from Boshemia on the longterm effects of the tragedy at Columbine, as well as the ongoing and ever increasing problem of bullying and violence in our schools.
Those who survived Columbine should serve as an inspiration to the rest of the world. Normal kids who walked into a school one day had their lives changed forever.