My wife recently reminded me that the 20-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting was this weekend.
She seemed to say it in passing while we were getting ready to head to work. But then we stopped for a moment, mainly in disbelief that so much time had passed since something that affected our generation so much had happened.
To us, it was still very relevant and clear. The irony in marking time on such an event is how timeless it feels to those who lived through it and how much coverage it received.
I remember seeing images of ambulances, police cars and high school students my age crying and holding each other on the perimeter of what looked like a massive crime scene.
Police were on high alert, with guns drawn. The news reported that two students entered the school that morning and began shooting.
There was no report yet on casualties, but with the seriousness of the situation, I felt the worst had taken place.
The aerial coverage focused on a series of glass doors. Periodically, a group of students would file out of these doors, running past the ambulances and eventually into the emotional arms of a relative or friend.
I was spellbound and could hardly breathe as I watched the live coverage of this tragedy unfold.
High school for me was tough. I was awkward socially and the academics at my school weren’t easy.
I tried my hardest to fit in and stay on top of my school work, but I was anything but popular or academically gifted. I was stuck in the middle, watching my peers surpass me, it seemed at the time, in every way.
On one hand, I could understand the pressure the shooters felt on a daily basis. On the other hand, it was unfathomable to even think about killing anyone as the answer to relieve that pain.
I think this is why adolescents at the time of shooting were so affected by it. Crimes of this magnitude usually happened elsewhere and were conducted by adults.
This was the first time in my memory that kids my age were responsible for perpetrating a heinous act and in what we considered a safe place.
For a brief time after the shooting, the social climate among the teens at my school became cohesive and tolerant. Of course, we also began to look at those on the outside and wonder if this incident would create a domino effect, a template for outsiders to follow.
Much to our relief, it didn’t and life went on past graduation. It’s sad to think the Columbine shooters might’ve changed their perspectives post-graduation.
Like the rest of us, they could’ve moved on past the pain of high school and realized that we were all awkward and fought the same battles. Instead, they caved to the pressure and, in doing so, became infamous perpetrators of violence.
Taking into account recent events in our own city, it is important we make time to reach out to our teenagers and let them know they are not alone. We need to tell them we are proud of them and that we are here for them, no matter what.
As a parent of a teenager, I know the struggle from both ends. A kind gesture can mean the difference between life and death.
This is in remembrance of the 13 people who lost their lives 20 years ago:
Cassie Bernall, Steve Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, Kyle Velasquez, Coach Dave Sanders