Sunset Ceremony Remembers Columbine 13

Flags Lowered On 10th Anniversary Of Columbine

With words of hope and healing, Coloradans on Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings that left 12 students and a teacher dead.

About 1,000 people gathered for a sunset memorial service at Clement Park, next to the school, where survivors, family and current students reflected on the massacre. A dove was released for each of the 13 victims as Columbine High principal Frank DeAngelis read their names.

Addressing the survivors, DeAngelis said: "You were forced to grow up far too quickly."

Two seniors at Columbine unleashed the attack with guns and pipe bombs on the morning of April 20, 1999. A bigger bomb, which they hoped would destroy the crowded cafeteria, failed to go off.

The gunmen, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, committed suicide.

"There are days I feel like it was yesterday. There are days it feels like a lifetime ago," said Val Schnurr, a Columbine alum who was wounded that day.

Former President Bill Clinton, who was president at the time of the shootings, addressed the crowd in videotaped remarks. Clinton also helped launch construction of the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park.

"It's changed you, your community, your fellow Americans," Clinton said of the tragedy.

The service drew hundreds of current students, many of them wearing Columbine's colors -- blue and white -- and carrying flowers, even though many of them said they scarcely remember the shootings.

"I don't come back here very often because it stirs such emotion," said Amy Hart, who was a junior at the time of the shootings.

Dawn Anna, whose daughter Lauren Townsend was killed that day, spoke of the victims on behalf of their families.

"We know them, we love them, and we celebrate their lives every day," she said.

"I honestly feel like it's a regular school," said Alyssa Reuter, 17, who was in second grade at a Littleton elementary school in 1999.

Reuter and several dozen other students distributed programs for the crowd and directed traffic.

"I feel like I owe it to the people who were hurt or killed, because it's just such a big part of our community," Reuter said.

Flags flew at half-staff over the school in the south Denver suburbs, and mourners laid roses and carnations at the memorial, situated on a hill overlooking the school. Many wiped away tears, and some sat with eyes closed in silent reflection at the memorial's fountain.

Roses in every color were placed on tablets memorializing the victims. Some people left unlit votive candles or tied handwritten notes with ribbons to flowers.

"I just felt I had to be here today," said Kelsey Snyder, 23, who was in eighth grade at a Denver school when the shootings occured. "I was just scared senseless because none of us could understand why anyone would do this," she said.

Columbine called off classes Monday, as it has every year that the anniversary falls on a school day. A police patrol car idled out front.

Al and Phyllis Valasquez urged Coloradans to reach out and be kind to one another -- something their son Kyle would've done, prior to losing his life in the shootings.

"He wanted to meet and be friends with everyone he saw. I think that's a good lesson," Phyllis said.

A private breakfast was held at the school for members of the class of 1999, said Lynn Setzer, spokeswoman for Jefferson County Public Schools.

About 70 people gathered outside the state Capitol in Denver to push for gun control, while lawmakers inside passed a resolution honoring the victims.

"Columbine will not become just a metaphor for tragedy," Rep. Ken Summers told lawmakers before they passed the resolution called "Triumph Over Tragedy." Summers was a pastor in the Columbine neighborhood when the shootings occurred.

Tom Mauser, father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, said the shooters did not kill the victims' spirits, and "they did not kill our spirits either."

Thirteen people with ribbons in the Columbine school colors wrapped around their necks laid at the foot of the Capitol steps to represent the victims, and 23 others representing the wounded encircled them.

Andrew Goddard of Richmond, Va., whose son Colin was wounded at the Virginia Tech University massacre two years ago, attended the Capitol rally. He said new police tactics that emerged after Columbine probably saved his son's life.

"They (Columbine victims) paid a huge price for that small lesson, but that lesson did benefit the students at Virginia Tech," he said.

At Columbine, police and deputies followed a standard tactic of establishing a perimeter before advancing carefully toward the gunmen. Afterward, many agencies adopted a new policy of aggressively attacking a shooter.

Virginia Tech student Seung Hui-Cho killed 32 people and committed suicide on April 16, 2007.

Oprah Winfrey canceled an episode scheduled to air Monday, called, "10 Years Later: The Truth about Columbine." Winfrey posted a message on her Facebook page, saying that after she reviewed the taped show, she decided to pull it because of its focus on the two gunmen. She urged viewers to keep the Columbine community in their thoughts.

"When somone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure," DeAngelis said as Monday's ceremony concluded. "My beloved children and Mr. Sanders, thank you for always being in our lives."

Print this article Back to Top