A nation watched in horror as students ran out
school, hands up, looks of panic, relief, and sorrow on their faces,
grateful they made it out alive, praying for those they feared did not.
some cases, they knew who was gone, in others, they had no idea and
only wait. Parents, as well, waited several hours, even overnight, to
if the child who went off to school in the morning would ever make it
In the end, fourteen didn't. Two volunteered not
to, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and I cannot fathom the sorrow their
families must feel, knowing not only will they never see their loved
ones again and wondering what they could have become, but also knowing
what they did become--the perpretrators of one of the most horrifying
incidents in American history.
Twelve had no choice in the matter. They got up
in the morning, got dressed, and went to their first three classes.
They thought about the prom days before, graduation in a couple of
weeks, college or summer jobs in the next few months, maybe even the
test that they had just taken or the one they were about to take.
These twelve, and particularly certain ones
have been portrayed as martyrs, and to some extent they were. Two of
(and one seriously wounded survivor) were asked about their faith. All
them showed remarkable faith and courage in a situation that none of us
weren't there could ever comprehend. In fact, every student at
School that day faced a test far greater than any we could assign. So
the teachers, staff members, and community. I don't know if I could
handled it as well as they did that day. I hope to never have to find
Cassie Bernall, Steven
Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matthew
Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbaugh, Rachel
Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren
Townsend, Kyle Velazquez.
Rachel's grave is covered with cards and gifts to celebrate her 22nd
birthday five days prior to my visit.
There was also a teacher who perished, a true
hero, Dave Sanders, a
man who had the opportunity to escape, but who instead ran back
into the school, cleared out the cafeteria, and then ran from classroom
to classroom to alert all of the situation. He was shot while running
down one of the halls and died in a classroom, surrounded by other
heros, students who waited with him rather than leaving him to die
alone and who held up a picture of his wife and kids from his wallet so
that they would be the last image he saw.
I am currently doing some research into that
fateful day, my interest not only sparked by my interest in youth
violence and drug prevention, but also by my friendship with a
Columbine grandparent who worked in the office alongside me on April
20, 1999 and received that horrible phone call from a relative who had
not heard whether her granddaughter was safe (she was). This was in
Washington state. In South Carolina, I worked alongside a man who had
been a Denver crisis-line counselor and who took many phone calls from
people directly affected by the tragedy. The effects of Columbine, and
the similar incidents around it, are far reaching, well beyond the
walls of the school and the limits of the city and long after April 20,
Many, if not most, of the teachers there that
work at Columbine High School. The students have all moved on. I have
there, and if you didn't know otherwise, you would not know anything
happened. They have rebuilt it quite nicely. Currently, there are no
no monuments in the immediate area, though that will change April 20,
with the unveiling of a new monument in Clement Park, across the street
the school, where many of the survivors ran.
There is a great memorial at the graves of
Corey DePooter and Dave Sanders, who are all buried in the same
Chapel Hill Cemetery several miles southeast of Columbine High School.
and Corey are buried side by side, and their graves have benches in
of them. Around that are the thirteen crosses that originally were
on Rebel Hill behind Columbine High School and in which people wrote
The center cross is that of Coach Sanders, who is buried at the foot of
cross. People continue to stop by and pay their tributes--strangers
myself, friends, family, and survivors. My visit there was one of the
spiritual experiences I have ever witnessed, and reading the messages
the letters people had left was very moving. Rachel's 22nd birthday was
week before, and presents and cards were piled on her grave.
Many thanks to my stepfather, Glenn Johnson, for providing the still
photos on this page.
Now available online for those with broadband
connections, I have the video of my visit to the crosses. Please click
on Rachel's Cross, below, to play.
In the meantime, I am working on The
Columbine Project, my informal name for a book on
the incident and the feelings and emotions around it during the time
and in the years since. If you survived Columbine and
happened to stumble on this page, please email me with your
stories of life then and now. My primary interest is on the recovery,
how one can go on with life after Columbine.
WORTHWHILE READING ABOUT COLUMBINE:
Scott, Darrell; Nimmo, Beth; & Rabey, Steve (2000). Rachel's
Tears: The Spiritual Journey of Columbine Martyr Rachel Scott.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Nimmo, Beth & Klingsporn, Debra (2001). The Journals of Rachel
Scott: Sharing a Journey of Faith at Columbine High. Nashville: Tommy
Scott, Darrell & Rabey, Steve (2001). Chain Reaction: A Call to
Compassionate Revolution. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Scott, Darrell & Rabey, Steve (2002). Rachel Smiles: The
Spiritual Legacy of Columbine Martyr Rachel Scott. Nashville: Thomas
These four books,
written/adapted by the parents of Rachel Scott (Darrell Scott and Beth
Nimmo), contain excerpts of the writings of Rachel Scott, a girl with
spiritual wisdom far beyond her years. They are a true inspiration. I
have heard Darrell Scott
speak in person, when he stopped in South Carolina (he regularly tours
country now crusading against youth violence and for a return to moral
education). If you ever get the chance to see him, I wholly recommend
He is an incredible speaker, and far from preachy. He has done his
and knows of what he speaks.
Brown, Brooks &
Merritt, Rob (2002). No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at
Columbine. New York: Lantern Books.
I applaud Brooks Brown for
writing this. He was a longtime close friend of Dylan Klebold and had a
like/hate relationship with Eric Harris (Harris once posted death
threats against Brown on his website). He was also targeted as a
possible "third suspect," though there turned out to be no evidence
supporting this. He gives incredible insight into the personalities of
Harris and Klebold (and Rachel Scott, who he greatly respected. His
writings confirm much of what Scott's parents write).
Aronson, Elliot (2000).
Nobody Left to Hate: Teaching Compassion After Columbine. New York:
psychologist Elliot Aronson examines the interactions between students
at Columbine and other schools that have a de facto class or caste
system and looks back on the ways he has worked previously in such
situations (he was a key figure in school integration during and after
the Civil Rights Movement) and how those ideas might be adapted today.
Zoba, Wendy Murray (2000). Day of Reckoning: Columbine and the
Search for America's Soul. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.
of the first books written about Columbine (and certainly the one with
the best cover). Zoba examines the facts of what happened and the
significance behind all of it both for the students at Columbine and
for society and Christendom at large. What she did in the first year
after Columbine is not unlike what I would like to do for five years
later, though she does look at it from a primarily Christian
perspective, while I intend to look at it from an overall view.
Lindholm, Marjorie and Lindholm,
Peggy (2005). A Columbine Survivor's Story. Littleton, CO: Regenold
A very powerful look at the aftermath
of Columbine for one of the students who survived it, and struggled
greatly with life afterward. Marjorie was a sophomore, one of the
students who was with Dave Sanders when he died. As a child, she was
renowned for her resiliance, a "when life brings you lemons, make pink
lemonade" girl. However, after April 20, life was no longer so simple.
There were no physical wounds for Marjorie on that day, but the
emotional ones were deep. This is an absolutely gut-wrenchingly honest
story of survival and recovery.
For information about ordering Lindholm's book,