Born After Columbine

Student Shares Views of Trying to Get an Education Under Constant Threat of Violence


Twenty years ago, on April 20, 1999, a horrid act of terrorism shook the nation. Two young men — seemingly ordinary teens with ordinary lives — decided to attack their fellow students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. They claimed the lives of 13 people and injured 24 others in an act of mass murder.

Three months later I was born.

My whole life, the threat of a potential school shooting has hovered over my head. I can’t remember the last time I practiced a fire drill. Now it’s just shelter-in-place drills, a practice where students must quickly lock the door and hide from all windows and doors in the dark.

According to The Washington Post, since Columbine more than 220,000  students at 225 schools have been exposed to school shootings where at least 143 children, educators, and other people were killed in assaults, and another 289 were injured.

To me, hearing about another school shooting is like seeing a car crash on a highway. It has become normal — a tragedy that children should never feel or try to understand.

After Columbine, theories spread like wildfire as the survivors and their families scrambled to find a reason, a source to place the blame, so they could cope and understand the reason behind the attack. Why their school, why those kids, why me?

There are many speculations about why they did it and what may have caused their behavior, but the bottom line is however they got to this point, or whatever tools they used, they were filled with violent rage.

It is in no way comforting that anyone, at any time, could be the next assailant. There is no predicting it or calculating it. For some of the school shootings since Columbine, the violence targeted certain social groups; in others, it was just a hurt kid trying to act out. And for a few, like the Columbine murderers, they wanted their five minutes of fame.

It’s scary, wondering if your school will be next. It happens in cities, tiny towns, and suburban areas. The children in our schools should never have to worry about their safety or their lives. They should be able to go to school without fear.

On my first day of college a few months ago, I was both nervous and excited about my future. I was excited to learn new things and be in a new environment, but I was nervous because I had never been on a campus so big. My hopes for this new journey in my life were soon clouded with fearful words. In all my classes that day, one of the first things each professor started with was what to do in case of an active attacker in the room or on the grounds.

I was beyond sad to have to be reminded that this problem had followed me into my new world and I would continue to have to further my education with the constant threat of violence.

Why do we only hear about ways to protect ourselves, and nothing from anybody with constructive ideas put into action about how to help prevent the violence in the first place?

I have witnessed kids suffer depression in silence because they feel like no one is there to listen to them, to help them. Most attacks in these schools are caused by hurting students. We need more counseling services to help recognize the signs of a potential threat early in a student’s life and more outlets for kids like the arts to help them feel valued when they don’t fit in to the popular sports programs or are just a bit different than the average student.

It wasn’t a stranger, or a man in a mask that killed their fellow students 20 years ago; it was two teenagers, both full of anger and pain. It’s all about these young adults, and their ability to express themselves and their feelings. They all need someone to listen to them.

“Teach them (students) that they are allowed to express their anger through words — not by acting on them,” Eve Burkhardt of the Westchester Family Institute explains to ABC News.

We need to make the school killings stop by eliminating the need, the inspiration. We need to end the bullying, the violence that shows on the news every day, the racism, the hate, the segregation among children between the wealthy and the poor, the popular and the not, the pretty and the plain. End the violence that surrounds our world, because children see way too much of that now days. The future of the world is defined by the children of today, and if all they see is violence, then that is all they will reap.

The Columbine murderers grew up with “normal” families, and both were highly intelligent, Dave Cullen writes in his book, Columbine. They had dates, went to prom, participated in sports and other activities, and had a handful of friends — yet they still betrayed their school.

More and more kids are looking to make their mark in history like the Columbine attackers did. We need to stop publicizing the bad, and focus on the good things kids do, their academic and personal achievements. Because in the end, what matters most is assuring our children that they can go to school and come home the same as when they left — full of curiosity and potential for a bright future ahead of them.

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