NewsColumbine: 20 Years Later

Actions

Columbine survivors talk about long road to recovery at 20th anniversary remembrance ceremony

White doves released in honor of victims
Posted: 12:29 AM, Apr 21, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-21 17:11:30Z
Columbine Memorial

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- Survivors, family members and hundreds of other people gathered at Clement Park on Saturday to honor the 13 people killed during the Columbine shooting 20 years ago.

"In some ways it's hard to believe that it's been 20 years," said Jefferson County School Board President Ron Mitchell. "And in other ways, it feels like the senseless tragedy and loss of lives occurred yesterday."

Clement Park

"Can it truly be 20 years since I've seen my Lauren?" Dawn Anna asked.

Ms. Anna's daughter, Lauren Townsend, was a senior at Columbine High School in 1999. She was in the library with friends when the gunmen opened fire. Ms. Anna still feels the heartache.

"You don't escape the pain," she said. "You simply and bravely face it."

Survivor

Sean Graves is one of the survivors. He was shot six times.

"I was paralyzed from the waist down," he said.

The survivor told the crowd that it took 49 surgeries, months of hospital care and years of physical therapy for him to be able to crawl. He said he eventually taught himself to walk.

He also praised first responders.

"It's because of you that somebody like me survived that day," Graves said.

Remembrance Ceremony

Honoring Victims and Those Who Helped

Current Columbine Principal Scott Christy said the Columbine community now honors the victims by dedicating April 20 to serving others.

"I hope the families of the victims can find some peace in the good that has come out of evil," he said.

Mandy Cooke remembers the chaos of that day, 20 years ago.

"I was a sophomore," she said.

Now she's a teacher.

"We will always remember the teachers and the educators who did so much to protect us," Cooke said. "You are not forgotten."

Message from Bill Clinton

The Remembrance Ceremony included a videotaped message from former President Bill Clinton.

"I'll never forget the determination you showed to somehow piece your lives back together," he said.

Clinton shared a quote from Ernest Hemingway: "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are stronger at the broken places."

He said the Columbine community proves that is true.

"The greatest tribute we can pay (to the victims) is to live our own lives in a way that redeems the years they didn't have," he said. "I wish you well."

Columbine Memorial

Recommittment

Colorado Governor Jared Polis told those in attendance, "We gather with hopeful hearts, hopeful because in the face of an unconscionable tragedy, great horrors and pain, we've recommitted ourselves to acts of kindness and service towards our family, friends and community."

Former Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis talked about a holocaust survivor who visited Columbine nine months after the tragedy.

"She told students she was 17 when she was forced on a death march," he said. "When she was liberated, she weighed 70 pounds and had white hair from malnutrition.

DeAngelis said, "We have been able to turn pain into healing, ignorance into enlightenment and hatred into love, and Gerda Weismann Klein, I know we have made you proud as this legacy continues."

White Dove

The remembrance ceremony ended on a somber note.

As the name of each victim was read, a white dove was released into the sky to honor those lost 20 years ago.

Columbine Memorial

Columbine Memorial

Before and after the Remembrance Ceremony, dozens of people walked up to the Columbine Memorial.

Claudia Guzman brought flowers. She placed one in front of a panel engraved with the quote: "The hardest part to understand was kids killing kids."

"It's so true," she said. "Even though the perpetrators were 18, they were kids themselves."

Columbine Memorial Panel

Colin and Jodee Forbes also visited the memorial.

Colin Forbes told Denver7 he is impressed by the strength of the Columbine and metro Denver community.

"Whether it comes from this (Columbine) or Aurora (theater shooting), what we've seen about Denver and Colorado is strength," he said.

Jodee Forbes said she was in Clement Park 20 years ago, on the day after the tragedy.

"There was just something that pulled me down here," she said. "I stood by a number of Columbine students and was just hugging whoever needed to be hugged. I remember I hugged this one boy. He was like a football player and he hugged me and cried for what seemed like forever. It was beautiful, because it didn't matter. We just held each other."

Ms. Forbes said they helped reassure each other that everything was going to be okay.

She added that it's amazing to think about now, because she has a daughter who is studying to be a teacher, at UNC.

"She's going to be in a classroom the rest of her life," Forbes said. "I know that she'll just be amazing, and she'll stand up and protect kids and teach them, give them love, and I think Colorado just gives love to all these people that are affected."