Voices of Columbine: Excerpts from the “Columbine Mosaic” – Part II of II

The following narratives are of six parents. Their description of the chaos of April 20th, 1999 when they didn’t know if their child was among the casualties, is followed by their riveting accounts of what transpired in the aftermath. I am grateful to these parents and to the many others who have graced me with their gifts of story.

Excerpts from the “Columbine Mosaic”

Children slaughtered
Kids flying down the hall
Teachers got them out
Stay down, stay down!
Sniper on the roof
Moments of terror
Kids in the library
What safer place?

People couldn’t find their kids
Lady, you can’t go in there
Where is my child?
Lists on the wall
You’re a victim too
Not a damn thing you can do
A war zone
My only child
Phones ringing all night
Worried about the kids
Friends supporting each other
Overtaken with grief
God, it was raw
Emotionally nothing left

Guilty for surviving
Guilty for finding my child so soon

Kids, just normal kids, did this.
How could they do this?
Were they sick? Evil? Needed help?
No one paying attention?
Mental health overlooked?
Not enough money for schools.

Media—sell the story
Make a buck
Never telling the whole truth
Pissing people off
Were you there?
Grayline tours
Visitors taking pictures
Pictures of the kids
Wanting to go through the school
Some people wanted to help
Some proselytized
Some exploited

Family helping each other
Friends, counselors, church
Relationships forged in trauma last a lifetime

Going back to Columbine after it was cleaned up
Helped us understand . . .
This is where I was
This is where I hid
This is what happened to me

First day of school next year
Parents were there
Students went in
Teachers were inside

Shook their hands
So emotional
Incredible courage to go back in
Reclaim their school
It was heroic

School was kind to them
Good communication
Maybe too much

Teachers were rock stars
Busted their butts
There for the kids
Continuing to teach
Cared so desperately
Extra counselors on staff

Such a complex thing
Not a single event
Threats to the school
Zero tolerance
All intertwined
Sad for those without family around

Community under a microscope
Columbine equals tragedy
But shootings were not Columbine
Community helped each other
People cared
If you survive you were supposed to
Then help others
Some dads were, OK get over it
Don’t want to talk about emotions
Suck it up
Mothers talked

Some moms were, You need therapy
Rough times around the house
On the job training
Forgot ourselves
100% attention on the kids
No time for each other

Kids hanging out
Hanging by a thread
200 kids wouldn’t leave their houses
Others taking risks
No fear
Might die tomorrow anyway
Signs of what to look for
Is it adolescence or trauma?

My child asked
Would I be the same otherwise?
Take time with your kids
Lives changed
Never forget.

It’s a chapter in my life
A room in my house
We’re like damaged goods
Survivors of Hiroshima
Deep, deep gut-like worry
A hell of an experience
A tornado
A hangover
Getting punched in the stomach for weeks on end

A sad, sad time

Individuals have to heal together
Bond with people who were part of it
Remember that people helped
Millions of people
Don’t feel so alone with it

Feels like pain will never end
It will
You will have joy again
Don’t let it define you

Remember what’s good about the community
People holding hands
People being together
Rebuilding trust
Love in the place

If it could happen here
It could happen anywhere.

The complete Columbine narratives are included in Experiences of Columbine Parents: Finding a Way to Tomorrow (available through ProQuest UMI AAT 3161558). Detailed explanation of my approach to research may be found in my text Interviewing for Education and Social Science Research: The Gateway Approach published by Palgrave Macmillan (2009, 2015). I have made available stories of experiences of educators involved in mass violence events, including shootings, natural disaster, and terrorist attack, in my book Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma published by Palgrave-Macmillan (2012).

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