Twenty years ago Saturday, two teenage gunmen claimed the lives of 13 victims and marked the beginning of an era in which America has repeatedly faced the threat of school shootings. Since the Columbine High School massacre, more than 226,000 students at 233 schools have been affected by school shootings, according to Washington Post analysis.
On April 20, 1999, two Columbine seniors, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, carried out a planned attack at their high school using a combination of firearms and homemade explosives. They shot and killed 13 people -- 12 students and a teacher -- before turning their weapons on themselves.
A memorial was designated in 2007 to honor the victims: students Cassie Bernal, Steven Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend and Kyle Velasquez, and teacher Dave Sanders. The outdoor space, which sits in a park adjacent to Columbine High School, welcomes visitors to reflect on the community's loss.
Last week, three days of commemorative events were planned in their honor, culminating with a memorial ceremony Saturday at the memorial in Littleton, Colo., a Denver suburb. The events continued despite a threat against the school that arose earlier last week.
On Tuesday, an 18-year-old woman traveled from Florida to Colorado and purchased a pump-action shotgun at a shop near Columbine High School. The woman, Sol Pais, had left a trail of disturbing messages online. A manhunt ensued and Jefferson County Public Schools ordered a lockout, keeping students inside for safety. As the manhunt stretched into a second day, classes were canceled. Pais was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The incident heightened already tight security measures around the week's events.
Bailey Rosiere was just a second-grader when Columbine came under siege. She was one of hundreds who attended a vigil on Friday night at the Columbine Memorial. Despite two decades of distance from the event, she told a local ABC station that the memory would never leave her.
"It makes it not just an empty or upsetting or sad feeling. It's more of a deep impact," she said. "Because you can't ever forget no matter how young you were."
Also in the crowd was Sarah Boyd, who came to lay flowers with her husband as she has done every year.
"It can happen anywhere. No one is immune, unfortunately," Boyd told the Denver Post. She had graduated from Columbine in 1996 and was nearby when the attack began. "I hope someday that people can look back and say these are the things that were made better because of such a terrible day."
Saturday's ceremony near the school ended a three-day slate of gatherings honoring the victims and lending support to survivors, the school and victims' families.
Speakers stressed the strength and change that came out of the tragedy. To symbolize that, artist Makoto Fujimura presented a 17th-century Japanese tea bowl that was broken but then mended with gold.
Pastor James Hoxworth urged anyone who was still struggling because of the shooting to reach out for help.
Visitors left dozens of single flowers along with cards and seed packets for columbines, the Colorado state flower, on the inner circle of the memorial Saturday, The Associated Press reported.
Ahead of Saturday's memorial, politicians and public figures offered their condolences to the victims of the Columbine shooting. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tweeted that "our state and our country will never forget" the shooting.
Former President Bill Clinton, who was in office when the shooting occurred, in an op-ed for the Denver Post last week called for lawmakers to "pass sensible gun legislation, and also reverse the political polarization surrounding the gun safety issue."
Other Democrats and gun-control activists issued condolences to the Columbine victims and survivors. Gabrielle Giffords, the former U.S. representative from Arizona who survived a 2011 assassination attempt in which six of her constituents were killed, tweeted "my heart is with Littleton."
A Section on 04/21/2019
Print Headline: 20 years later, Colorado looks back on Columbine