On April 20, 1999, in an elementary school four miles away from Columbine High School, I sat as a 5-year-old kid in kindergarten class.
A 5-year-old who hurriedly went from a desk in her classroom to a siren-filled library with her classmates. A 5-year-old, whose mom raced home from work to pick her up from that library and held her, longer and stronger than she had ever remembered. A 5-year-old, who will forever remember April 20, 1999 for the same reason you do: 12 students and one brave teacher died at Columbine High School that day.
That same girl eventually went to Columbine High School; I am often asked about my experience on that day and about being a Columbine student. What people know about Columbine is what happened on April 20, 1999.
What I know about Columbine is the community, the people and the meaning.
I didn’t feel afraid to go Columbine High School — I felt honored. Honored to be apart of something so much bigger than myself: a family, filled with hope, built on love and comprised of leaders. Leaders, who endured and who now help others at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, Sandy Hook and most recently, Arapahoe High School, which is just down the road from Columbine.
“We are Columbine”: the phrase on every t-shirt, which is cheered at every game and planted in the hearts of every person lucky enough to be part of the Columbine family. Goosebumps still appear, even now, seven years since the first time I heard it, when it is shouted at prom, assemblies and football games.
As a former student, that phrase and that place will forever hold meaning. Even if you didn’t go there, you felt it, too.
We felt for the victims, their families, and with the students and teachers. We all felt. We didn’t feel as parents, as kids, as Christians or as Americans — we felt as human beings, from all around the world, of all ages and of all walks of life. We felt the pain and the fear, but more importantly, we felt the belief that hope and love would prevail.
April 20, 2014 will mark the 15-year anniversary of the Columbine tragedy.
More importantly, it is the 15-year anniversary of the community that came together in its wake — the community that taught and built me. It is because of my experience that I will continue to live what Columbine taught — Columbine the community, not the event; the love, experience and the family.
Yes, what happened there shaped the community, but the word “Columbine” is no longer synonymous with tragedy. It is now a term of hope. We are all Columbine because we believe in hope and the good of humanity.
We are all hopeful; we are all Columbine.
Photo Credit: Wiki Commons