April 20, 1999

    A nation watched in horror as students ran out of the school, hands up, looks of panic, relief, and sorrow on their faces, eternally grateful they made it out alive, praying for those they feared did not. In some cases, they knew who was gone, in others, they had no idea and could only wait. Parents, as well, waited several hours, even overnight, to know if the child who went off to school in the morning would ever make it home. 

    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 among them, have been portrayed as martyrs, and to some extent they were. Two of them (and one seriously wounded survivor) were asked about their faith. All of them showed remarkable faith and courage in a situation that none of us who weren't there could ever comprehend. In fact, every student at Columbine High School that day faced a test far greater than any we could assign. So did the teachers, staff members, and community. I don't know if I could have ever handled it as well as they did that day. I hope to never have to find out.

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, 1999.

    Many, if not most, of the teachers there that day still work at Columbine High School. The students have all moved on. I have been there, and if you didn't know otherwise, you would not know anything ever happened. They have rebuilt it quite nicely. Currently, there are no memorials, no monuments in the immediate area, though that will change April 20, 2004, with the unveiling of a new monument in Clement Park, across the street from the school, where many of the survivors ran. 

    There is a great memorial at the graves of Rachel Scott, Corey DePooter and Dave Sanders, who are all buried in the same location at Chapel Hill Cemetery several miles southeast of Columbine High School. Rachel and Corey are buried side by side, and their graves have benches in front of them. Around that are the thirteen crosses that originally were placed on Rebel Hill behind Columbine High School and in which people wrote messages. The center cross is that of Coach Sanders, who is buried at the foot of the cross. People continue to stop by and pay their tributes--strangers like myself, friends, family, and survivors. My visit there was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever witnessed, and reading the messages and the letters people had left was very moving. Rachel's 22nd birthday was the 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. 


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 Nelson.

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 Nelson Publishers.

    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 the country now crusading against youth violence and for a return to moral values education). If you ever get the chance to see him, I wholly recommend it. He is an incredible speaker, and far from preachy. He has done his research 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: Worth Publishers.

    Renowned social 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.

    One 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 Publishing.

    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, visit


Copyright 2003, Brian Waterman.