The Centennial Soapbox

Rocky Mountain Columbine

Ten years later, faith still strong

The Rocky Mountain Columbine, pictured above, is the Colorado state flower. It is known for its elegant beauty, with its trademark blue and white flowers encasing the golden yellow stamens that make up the center of the flower. It grows wild along the front range of the Rocky Mountains and on up into the high country. Ask anyone in Colorado about a columbine, and they would be able to describe to you its beauty and its meaning. Ten years ago today, April 20, 1999, the word "columbine" took on an entirely different meaning, one that is not synonymous with beauty, elegance, or even flower. Today, the term "Columbine" conjures up many different thoughts and emotions in people all over the United States. For citizens of Colorado, it is now a symbol of hope, strength, and perseverence, and we all pause for a moment every time we pass a columbine flower.

By now, we've all heard the story many times over. On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a suburb on the southwest side of Denver, planted pipe bombs in the school before walking in and opening fire on their classmates. They came armed with a full arsenal of weapons. It was during the lunch hour that they launched their attack, entering the cafeteria and library where many students and faculty were spending their free time. When all was said and done, there were 13 victims. Harris and Klebold took the lives of ten of their classmates and one teacher before turning their weapons on themselves and taking their own lives. It was a day that rocked the entire nation's foundation, redefining a term synonymous with beauty and forever reshaping the landscape of the state of Colorado.

I was only ten years old at the time, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the 5th grade, and I went to a small Christian school in Ft. Collins, about 50 miles north of Denver. I'll never forget the shock that afternoon when we began to learn what had happened in Littleton. I was still too young to fully grasp what had happened, though I was old enough to wonder why or how anyone could imagine committing such an act. I've learned that I will never understand it. It's simply unimaginable. The spirit of the survivors brings will always bring a smile to my face, and the spirit of the victims fills many of us with joy. Most of us can never imagine living through such an event. It's impossible to imagine the resolve of Cassie Bernall, a student who stood up for her faith even though she knew it would cost her life. Mr. William "Dave" Sanders, a teacher that threw himself in front of a student and sacrificed his own life, is undoubtedly a hero to thousands of Columbine students, and there are many more stories of heroism from that day that I can only tip my hat to.

For many students, graduation was less than a month away. These students would never set foot in Columbine High School again until today, as school was cancelled for the rest of the year. Today they held a vigil and a reunion for students that were at the school that day. It was the first time back in the building for most of them. Much of the faculty has moved on, but principal Frank DeAngelos remains in charge, a man of extreme faith and character, and a hero to many of the students that were present that day. Patrick Ireland, a student better known as the "boy in the window" at Columbine, was shot twice in the head and once in the leg, causing paralysis that he has since overcome. He is thriving now, working for a real estate company, and he has written a book, along with his mother, sister, and Terry Frei of the Denver Post in remembrance of that day, a book that is yet to be published. He has said, "We're not victims, we're victors," about the students of Columbine. They have overcome so much since that day, and they are the reason that the columbine gives us hope today.

When school resumed the next fall, Columbine High School would be in the news again by late October. This time it was positive news. The Columbine Rebels football team was rolling through the state playoffs, setting up a showdown with Cherry Creek High School in the Colorado 5A High School Football championship game. Columbine won the game, and an entire state celebrated its victory. It seemed to bring a feeling of closure to such a tragic event. There will certainly never be full closure for the students that were there that day, but their story is an inspiration to all. They give us all a reason to have faith. Ten years later, their hope and faith are still alive.

The video below is a tribute to the victims of the Columbine High School Massacre. There are photos of wooden crosses, a monument that was created and still stands at Columbine High School. Some of the images are somewhat graphic.


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