LITTLETON, COLO. The “boy in the window” — who fell bloodied and paralyzed into the arms of rescuers during the horrifying Columbine High shooting rampage — is doing just fine.
Now 27, Patrick Ireland has regained mobility with few lingering effects from gunshot wounds to his head and leg a decade ago. He is married and works in the financial services industry. His mantra: “I choose to be a victor rather than a victim.”
Like Ireland, many survivors of the April 20, 1999, massacre have moved on to careers in education, medicine, ministry, retail.
But emotional scars still can trigger anxiety, nightmares and deeply etched recollections of gunfire, blood and bodies.
Some have written books; a few travel the world to share their experiences to help victims of violence.
“People have been able to have 10 years to reconcile what happened and see what fits in their life and who they are,” said Kristi Mohrbacher of Littleton, who fled Columbine as the gunfire erupted. “It’s kind of a part of who I am today. I think my priorities might be a little bit different if I hadn’t had that experience.”
Just after 11 a.m. on that day, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, stormed the suburban school, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding about two dozen. The massacre ended with the gunmen’s suicides not quite an hour later.
Sean Graves saw the pair loading weapons in a parking lot and thought they were preparing a senior prank with paintball guns.
Graves, Lance Kirklin and Daniel Rohrbough were walking toward them for a better look when the gunmen opened fire, killing Rachel Scott and Rohrbough and critically wounding Anne Marie Hochhalter, Graves and Kirklin, among others.
In the second-floor library, Ireland was about to finish some homework when he heard pipe bombs exploding in the hallway. Debris fell from the ceiling and a teacher shouted for students to take cover.
Klebold and Harris strode in, shouted for students to stand up, laughing and ridiculing classmates as they sprayed bullets.
Ireland was under a table with Dan Steepleton and Makai Hall when they were shot in the knees. Ireland was shot twice in the head and once in a leg, and lost consciousness.
The killers shot out a library window. Graves, lying partially paralyzed on a sidewalk below, worried that they would return. He smeared blood from his neck wound on his face and the ground to make it appear he was dead.
Harris and Klebold killed 10 students in the library before they left to reload, which gave some survivors a chance to flee. Steepleton and Hall tried to pull Ireland but couldn’t move him far before they fled for safety.
Shortly before noon, the gunmen returned to the library and committed suicide.