Remembering Columbine 16 years later

I know I’m a day behind on posting this and that’s because I really didn’t know what I wanted to say.  Young people from my generation are groaning over turning 30 this year (I’m not), but I think they need to keep in mind growing older is a privilege not many get to take advantage of.

My generation has seen many terrible things happen.  We watched the news develop in our classrooms and those are memories we aren’t likely to forget.  I can remember listening to stories my grandmother would tell me and how she’d say, “I was there”, and it was always so surreal.  I couldn’t imagine witnessing something like that.

9/11 unfolded right before my very eyes when I was fifteen years old.  I didn’t understand.  I couldn’t even wrap my head around why such a terrible, horrible thing would happen.  We sat in silence with our heads bowed.  Tears fell.  We just didn’t understand.

But it’s not the first time, nor will it be the last, that we stared at television screens while confusion wreaked havoc on our hearts and minds.

I was in the 7th grade when tragedy struck Littleton, Colorado. 12 students and 1 teacher lost their lives that day. The world as I knew it changed. I no longer felt safe at school. Metal detectors were placed at the entrance and we were required to use plastic, see-through backpacks. My teachers no longer looked cheerful. They were weary, disheartened. Looking back on that, I really can’t blame them. I think we all felt it.

The world changed for everyone.

I know it’s not the first instance of violence to take place in a school setting, but it was the first time my brain could understand it and trust me, that wasn’t easy.

How could anyone do that? Why would they do it? What goes through a person’s mind, in their heart, to make them capable of such ruthlessness?

I live in a very small country town and things like this just don’t happen, but I think that day was the day I realized safety isn’t a guarantee, no matter where you live.

I think of Columbine often. We were required to write a paper on it not even a month after it happened and my mind wandered back to one student in particular. Maybe it’s because of my faith—no, it is definitely because of my faith, but I think of Cassie Bernall. I remember her name because I wrote my paper about her.

One of the gunmen asked her if she believed in God and she said yes without hesitation. He killed her.

It was only recently that I read an article stating it was actually her friend, a survivor, Valeen Schnurr who was asked this question.

I realize that violence happens every day, everywhere. I know there are many school children that lose their lives in other countries and my heart breaks for them. No, I don’t get why people do it. I don’t understand how a guy can walk into a movie theatre and open fire. I’ll never be able to comprehend how a boy can enter a school building full of innocent children and kill them in cold blood.

We will never truly know and that breaks my heart. So much tragedy. So much violence. So much murder.

Now here is the part where I’m going to lose you, and for that I’m not entirely sorry. No matter what your belief may be, I know what mine is.

There is a special place in Hell for these killers. These men and women who take it upon themselves to play God, to choose who lives and who dies…they will have to answer for their crimes before MY God and on that day of judgment, I hope their victims can find comfort in knowing their deaths were not in vain.

I can’t believe it’s been 16 years.

We’ve seen so much happen since then and I fear what will happen in the future. I know my niece and nephew will one day look at a TV screen and their mouths will fall open as they watch, helplessly, another town fall victim to the brutality of a soulless killer.

I wish I could protect them from it forever. I wish we lived in a place where EVERY life mattered, because every life SHOULD matter.

I sincerely hope you will thank your lucky stars that you woke up today. Don’t complain about the gray hair you’re getting and don’t mutter about those wrinkles around your eyes and mouth. Remember those who will never have that opportunity. Be grateful that you’ll get to blow the candles out on your birthday cake and take pride in seeing those numbers, no matter if they read 18, 25, 30, or 80. There are families out there who quietly watch birthdays pass by. They don’t have anyone to celebrate those with anymore and they have to visit a grave instead.

Just remember that.

May the souls of all who fall at the hands of the heartless rest in peace.

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