DENVER – Coloradans vowed Monday that the Columbine High School massacre would not be “just a metaphor for tragedy” as the state marked the 10th anniversary of the rampage in which two student gunmen killed 12 students and a teacher.
State Representative Ken Summers of Lakewood, a pastor in the Columbine neighbourhood when the shootings occurred, said that while the school attack deeply scarred the people of Colorado, it also brought them together to heal.
“Columbine will not become just a metaphor for tragedy,” Summers told legislators at the state capitol.
On the morning of April 20, 1999, two Columbine seniors unleashed an attack with guns and pipe bombs, killing 13 people. 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.
Also Monday, about 50 people gathered outside the capitol to support gun control. Thirteen people representing those who were killed lay on the capitol lawn with blue and white ribbons wrapped around their necks, the colours of the school. At the event was Tom Mauser, father of Daniel Mauser, who was killed at Columbine.
“(The gunmen) did not kill their spirts,” Mauser said of the victims. “They did not kill our spirits either.”
A moment of silence and the tolling of bells marked each of 13 names that were read.
Andrew Goddard of Richmond, Va., whose son Colin was wounded at the Virginia Tech University shootings on April 16, 2007, attended the rally at the capitol. 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 Virgina Tech,” he said.
At Columbine, police and deputies followed a standard tactic of establishing a perimeter before advancing carefully toward a gunman. Afterward, many agencies adopted a new policy of aggressively attacking the shooter.
Meanwhile, flags flew at half-mast over government buildings, and legislators passed a resolution titled “Triumph Over Tragedy” to mark the occasion.
A memorial service was planned for Monday night in Clement Park, next to the school in the south Denver suburbs.
On the anniversary, Oprah Winfrey cancelled an episode schedule to air Monday, “10 Years Later: The Truth about Columbine.”
Winfrey posted a message Monday morning 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.
Gov. Bill Ritter had planned to address the state legislature in the house chamber Monday, but his speech was cancelled at the last minute because House Speaker Terrance Carroll declined to suspend the rules.
“Traditionally, the governor doesn’t come on the floor unless it’s the State of the State speech, and I’m not inclined to change that precedent,” said Carroll. Both Carroll and Ritter are Democrats.
On the Net:
Columbine Memorial: http://www.columbinememorial.org
Columbine High School: http://sc.jeffco.k12.co.us/education/school/school.php?sectionid282