LITTLETON, COLO. With words of hope and healing, Coloradans on Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings that left 12 students and a teacher dead.
About 1,000 people gathered for a sunset memorial service at Clement Park, next to the school, where survivors, relatives and current students reflected on the massacre. A dove was released for each of the 13 victims as principal Frank DeAngelis read their names.
Addressing the survivors, DeAngelis said: “You were forced to grow up far too quickly.”
Two seniors at Columbine unleashed an attack with guns and pipe bombs on the morning of April 20, 1999. A bigger bomb, which they hoped would destroy the crowded cafeteria, failed to go off.
The gunmen, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, committed suicide.
“There are days I feel like it was yesterday. There are days it feels like a lifetime ago,” said Val Schnurr, a Columbine alumnus who was wounded that day.
Bill Clinton, who was president at the time of the shootings, addressed the crowd in videotaped remarks.
“It’s changed you, your community, your fellow Americans,” Clinton said of the tragedy.
The service drew hundreds of current students, many of them wearing Columbine’s school colors, blue and white, and carrying flowers. Many said they scarcely remember the shootings.
“I feel like I owe it to the people who were hurt or killed, because it’s just such a big part of our community,” said Alyssa Reuter, 17, who was in second grade at a Littleton elementary school in 1999.
Flags flew at half-staff over the school in the south Denver suburbs, and mourners placed roses and carnations at the nearby memorial, situated on a hill overlooking the school. Many wiped away tears.
Columbine called off classes Monday, as it has every year that the anniversary falls on a school day. A police patrol car idled out front.
About 70 people gathered outside the state Capitol in Denver to push for gun control, while lawmakers inside passed a resolution honoring the victims.
“Columbine will not become just a metaphor for tragedy,” Rep. Ken Summers told lawmakers before they passed a resolution called “Triumph Over Tragedy.” Summers was a pastor in the Columbine neighborhood when the shootings occurred.
At the gun control rally, Tom Mauser, father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, said the shooters did not kill the victims’ spirits, and “they did not kill our spirits either.”
Thirteen people with blue and white ribbons wrapped around their necks lay at the foot of the Capitol steps to represent the victims, and 23 others representing the wounded encircled them.
Andrew Goddard, of Richmond, Va., whose son Colin was wounded at the Virginia Tech massacre two years ago, attended the rally. He said new police tactics that emerged after Columbine probably saved his son’s life.
“They (Columbine victims) paid a huge price for that small lesson, but that lesson did benefit the students at Virginia Tech,” he said.
At Columbine, police and deputies followed a standard tactic of establishing a perimeter before advancing carefully toward the gunmen. Afterward, many agencies adopted a new policy of aggressively attacking a shooter.
Virginia Tech student Seung Hui-Cho killed 32 people and committed suicide on April 16, 2007.
Oprah Winfrey canceled an episode of her talk show scheduled to air Monday, called, “10 Years Later: The Truth about Columbine.”
Winfrey posted a message on her Facebook page, saying that after she reviewed the taped show, she decided to pull it because of its focus on the two gunmen. She urged viewers to keep the Columbine community in their thoughts.