Columbine

columbine1Columbine is in the headlines again. I am amazed how quickly my heart and mind can travel back to the intense pain of that day.  We lived a few minutes away from that school when it happened. Gary had left the youth ministry a year before that but we had remained an active part of Littleton Christian Church, where we had been for many years. In some ways, we have not stopped ministering to some the kids in our youth group.  (Now Dan and Kerry Hoff, who were once in our youth group, are now our pastors.  We still see some of those ‘kids’  on a pretty regular basis.)  Many of the students in our youth group attended Columbine.  Many were inside the school that day.

Their stories haunt me. Sean was hiding in a pantry inside the kitchen. He could hear the killers shooting guns at the unexploded bombs in an unsuccessful attempt to set them off. Luke was one of the first to leave the cafeteria. He made it to one of his friend’s house and called his home. His mother was at the grocery store when it happened. She found out about the shootings by hearing his voice on the answering machine telling her that he was still alive. Another friend of mine, Cathy, had a much harder time than Luke’s mom. Her son Tim was on the last bus of kids to leave the school. She had to wait for hours, watching bus load after bus load of kids arrive at Leawood Elementry before she found out that her son was still alive. But he still alive – that’s what she will always remember. Debbie was sick that day. She remembers flirting with one of the killers months before that day. He would always smile at her in the halls. Afterward, she would question his thoughts. When he smiled at her was he thinking, “I’m going to kill you someday,” or “I like you, we should go out.”? She will never know the answer to that question. And there were many more that day. Each with their own story. Each with their own pain.

I was acquainted with the parents of one of the killers. When he was in grade school, they appeared to be very attentive parents. They were very active in his life and in his school. They both worked and I am sure their careers were important to them but I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he was more important. They are not bad people. I saw no signs of them being a dysfunctional family. And I was in an unique position where I likely would have seen some evidence of that. But there wasn’t any. Maybe that was one of things that really frightened me.

I cried uncontrollably every day for months. I would look suspiciously at teenage boys in stores and wonder if they would suddenly “go off.” Sometimes I would go to Clement Park and sit and pray and wonder. And gradually, I began to cry less. And I watched all of the kids in our youth group move on. I can now drive on Bowles, passing Pierce, and not even think of that day. I avoided that intersection for quite some time.

And I wish I could talk about some grand lesson that we all learned. Many have tried to do that. We have learned things. Law enforcement has learned how to deal much more effectively with these kind of situations. The leadership team of our very small school, Crossroads Christian Academy, has included a shooter plan in our safety strategy. We have learned to find hope, comfort and peace in places where they don’t grow naturally. And we have also learned that even ten years later, it can still hurt.

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3 Responses to “Columbine”

  1. Ten years is a long time ago. But this all still feels all too recent…

  2. I appreciate you sharing this. We still lived in Iowa when it happened, but a year later when we were a part of Littleton Christian Church, the pain and the hurt was still a gaping wound for so many people. We couldn’t help but be drawn in and hurt with you.

    Later, when we lived right by the school, we got to meet many people through the grocery store right there, who were also directly affected by it.

    Even though were might still be outsiders looking in, we still hurt and cry. I hope everyone can find permanent peace someday.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I linked to your perspective on my most recent post about the event. Your own unique personal experience and closeness to the events, the people, the students, and even the parents of criminals really gives a glimpse at the heart of this story.

    I really commend you for coming out the cacoon and taking the opportunity to develop those relationships with your neighbors.

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