Monday, April 20, 2009

Ten Years

Anniversaries are weird. Both good and bad – they are all weird. Not in a bad way but in the way they affect me. I almost always spend the entire day remembering where I was and what I was doing at this exact time. It all seems so fresh in my mind and heart.

Today is the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. I know the nation and even the world may be remembering this. There will be an article in the paper or a segment on the news reflecting back on what happened that day and how things have changed since.

Ten years ago today I was engaged to my husband, living in a fabulous apartment near downtown, and working at a wonderful office in Denver. I rarely thought about Columbine or the people there, even though I had graduated from there just a few years earlier. Then as a coworker came in from lunch she said that there was a shooting at a high school in Littleton. Imagine my surprise when she told me it was my typical, beige, suburban alma mater. I thought for sure it was some punk kid trying to be a “gangsta” or something. I certainly never imagined the horrors that would unfold.

My coworkers covered my duties so I could watch the news coverage in a small coffee room. I stood there in disbelief; numb as I watched SWAT teams swarm the building I spent so much time in. It had been remodeled and expanded after I graduated so I could not picture the scenarios that would unfold. All I could think about were the teachers I knew and the younger siblings of friends I thought might still be students. I quickly sent an email to one of the few friends I was still in touch with. She was stationed in South Korea and her youngest sister was a senior. I later found out that her sister was planning to work on a paper in the library but all the computers were being used. She instead headed to her other sister’s house and was leaving the front of the building as Brian and Dylan were entering the back. That makes me shudder even today.

As the details poured out and names were released I racked my brain trying to remember if the names were familiar. Then they said that a teacher was killed. Dave Sanders. Coach. He was a good man and a good teacher. I had him one semester. One of his daughters was a friend of mine. I ached for her. I saw my old theatre teacher breaking down in a student's arms and wished I was there for her too. I worried about another friend’s sister and saw her that evening on the coverage of a candlelight vigil held at my old church. That is when I first broke down and I sobbed myself to sleep.

Now ten years later I look at the clock and think about how it was just an average day. It was sunny and cool. All of those normal everyday things were happening. And in an instant that all changed. Not just for me or my high school, but for all schools in our country and so many countless people across the world.

The students graduating from high school this year were in the 2nd grade when the shooting happened. Chances are they do not remember it. They have never known a school without locked doors, closed-circuit cameras, police on campus, and lockdown drills. Their sociology books have always covered Columbine. The memorial wall always a part of their landscape.

Now as a parent I have fears my parents never had. The idea of a child planning an attack like those at Columbine, Jonesboro, and others were incomprehensible. The generation before mine sent their kids to school trusting they were safe. Their biggest worries were that their child may smoke behind the gym or skip geometry. Parents of students today send their kids to school praying the bully intervention and security measures are enough to keep their kids safe for one more day. Our hearts lurch whenever a lockdown is put into place.

I am not sure how I am going to spend the day today. Remembering. Praying. Perhaps I will venture down to Littleton. Check out the Memorial. Bring some flowers. Or just stay home and thank God for the blessings he has given me, if only for today.

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