LITTLETON, Colo. — The Columbine Memorial is a place to honor and remember the 13 lives lost the morning of April 20, 1999.
“I hope people come here to this place to think about how they themselves can be better people, rather than come here to reflect death,” reads a message on the memorial.
That message has always been the hope of Lauren Townsend’s mother, Dawn Anna.
“This community has made a change, and that’s what I want people to remember about April 20,” Anna said.
Anna sat with husband Bruce Beck in Columbine’s library to talk about Lauren, a straight-A senior with hopes and dreams.
“I can’t help but drift and wonder what Lauren would be doing,” she said. “I think she’d be out in the world with animals, saving the environment. It’s what she wanted to do.”
Lauren’s name is one of 13 engraved at the entrance of the school’s library.
“I talk to her,” Anna said. “Maybe that’s why 20 years seems impossible.”
Talking openly about that day twenty years ago, however, didn’t come easily.
“I kept my feelings hidden,” she said. “But it was 9/11 when I saw so many people suffering and knew that pain viscerally, that I felt my pain had to be shared.”
“What did you want to say?” Anne Trujillo asked.
“I wanted to say that you are going to survive. That it hurts in every cell of your body,” Anna replied. “I could have stayed at home behind closed doors, and the world was evil — of course they were evil, my daughter had just been shot ten times in the school library. I could have stayed holed up and thought the world was awful.”
Anna didn’t give in. She wanted Lauren to be remembered for her smile, her laughter, her goodness. And she found that other Columbine families wanted the same for their children.
“The families of the murdered and injured took it upon themselves at an incredibly difficult time in their lives to fundraise $3.1 million to remove the old library, create an atrium over the commons and build this new library,” Beck said.
When President Clinton came to Columbine in June of 2006 and donated $50,000 of his own money to the Columbine Memorial, Anna was there to remind the community about the 13 who deserved so much more.
“When I opened up my heart and tried to do something for someone else, that’s when I healed,” she said.
Lauren is always with her mother who has written a book dedicated to her memory. It’s about a gardener nurturing a seed.
The family has set up a fund in Lauren’s name that has donated over $300,000 to honor her love for learning and wildlife.