Columbine Timeline

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Follow the events at Columbine as they happened.

Spring & Summer 1999

April 20
Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shoot and kill 12 students and one teacher before turning the guns on themselves. Twenty-three are injured.

The students killed are Cassie Bernall, Steven Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend and Kyle Velasquez. The teacher killed is Dave Sanders.

Live media coverage delivers news of the tragedy around the globe.

 

April 21
Teachers and administrators gather for a faculty meeting. Instead of sitting at school desks, a shocked, drained faculty sits in church pews.

Later that morning, Principal Frank DeAngelis addresses students, parents, staff members, religious leaders, state political leaders and district staff members for the first time.

Submitted by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), the U.S. Senate issues a resolution stating the "hearts in the United States Senate are with all of the families through this terrible and tragic time."

 

April 23
Teachers and students meet for the first time after the shootings. "There was a special bond that developed as a result of the tragedy. I think what everyone was feeling at that point is just reconnecting," Principal Frank DeAngelis recalled.

"I remember the kids just wanted to touch you. Sometimes they would just bury their face in you and hold on tight," science teacher Chris Mosier recalled.

 

April 25
Vice President Al Gore, his wife, Tipper, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and his wife, Frances, attend a communitywide memorial service.

 

May 2
Three thousand students, parents and teachers gather for a memorial service in the scenic Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

"We survived. We will prevail. We have hope to carry on because we were Columbine, we still are Columbine, and we will be an even stronger Columbine from this day forward," DeAngelis says to applause.

Within 12 days of the shootings, two memorial services and 13 funerals are held. TV cameras are commonplace. Media attention is intense. Public mourning becomes a community norm.

 

May 3-19
Columbine High School's rival, Chatfield High School, trades its competitiveness for compassion, opening its doors to Columbine.

Students, whose book bags were left in the building after the shootings, are given new bags filled with donated supplies.

Trucks with mounted satellites surround the school. Security is heightened. The media's wide-lens stare forces students and staff into further isolation.

While Columbine students are at Chatfield, the world responds with a multitude of gifts: Tea-leaf leis, restaurant catering and brand-name T-shirts pour into the school.

English teacher Kiki Leyba recalls students wrapped in donated blankets and cuddling stuffed animals. "If we could have had a camp fire, we would have."

English teacher Claudia Abbott finds herself functioning through a fog. Desks in small circles, her students write their thoughts in journals and read donated copies of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. "I don't know how we did it," she recalled. "Kids were traumatized. We didn't have the skills to really deal with that. But, we did the best we could."

The "healing bear" arrives in Littleton. Originally sent by an unknown donor to the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the bear was in turn sent to Area Senior High School in Montoursville, Pa., after 16 students, a teacher and four chaperones died in an explosion while on a French Club trip to Paris.

 

May 20
President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton meet privately with the victims' families. Later that day, they attend a memorial service at Dakota Ridge High School.

 

May 22
Graduation for Columbine students is held at Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre. Students, shot a month earlier and released from the hospital in wheelchairs, receive their diplomas.

A moment of silence follows the reading of names of those who would have graduated that year — remaining a part of the graduation ceremony for the next three years.

Laura Townsend, one of those murdered, would have been valedictorian this year. Her parents are presented with her cap, gown and tassel.

 

June 1
Students and teachers return to the school. Walking through crime scene tape, they retrieve personal items. Some students throw away shoes and clothes worn on April 20. Many discard their packs without ever opening them.

 

June
Claudia Abbott, with Columbine High School students, visits Conyers, Ga., where a school shooting occurred. When she asks the students why they want to go, they tell her they wish to express their gratitude for the compassion they had been shown.

 

July
Building renovation is in full swing as 500 to 600 workers volunteer their time to prepare the school.

 

Summer
The Never Forgotten Fund is created with the help of Clear Channel Communication radio stations. Scholarships of $5,000 each honor the memory of each student slain at Columbine. Scholarships are also set up to honor Columbine teacher Dave Sanders.

The Columbine Memorial Scholarship Fund raises money with the help of the Rocky Mountain News and its parent company, E.W. Scripps. Scholarships are granted not only to Columbine High School students but to other Jefferson County school students as well.

 

School Year 1999-2000

August 15
A faculty meeting is held. Therapists specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder prepare teachers to work with physically and emotionally damaged children.

Teachers learn not only how to support students but also to understand more about themselves as they work through emotional upheaval.

 

August 16
A Reclaim the School rally is held. Hundreds of parents line the street, providing a protective corridor shielding students from the media.

Teachers who opened the school in 1972 cut a ribbon commemorating the renovated school and rejuvenated spirit.

The chant, We are Columbine, rallies students, teachers, parents and the community.

 

August
The football season is dedicated to Matt Kechter, a junior-varsity lineman and one of the 12 students killed.

Players wear blue ribbons on their football jerseys commemorating Matt. His jersey number, 70, is retired; some players get tattoos honoring him.

Columbine wins its first football game of the season. "It was an incredible day," recalled Coach Chris Mosier. "I knew Matt was watching the game."

 

September 10
The softball field is dedicated to Dave Sanders, a teacher, girls' softball coach and one of those killed.

 

September 24
Patrick Ireland, a student who hoisted himself to safety, is named homecoming king.

 

September 28
Gov. Owens issues the Executive Order to establish the 14-member Columbine Review Commission to look at possible lessons learned from the Columbine shootings and to share the information with the public.

 

October 1
Celine Dion opens the new Pepsi Center, providing front-row concert seats and backstage passes to Columbine victims and their families. She dedicates $500,000 from the concert to help the victims.

 

October 22
The mother of Anne Marie Hockhhalter, a victim paralyzed in the shooting, enters an Englewood pawn shop, purchases a gun and commits suicide when the clerk turns his back.

Her suicide traumatizes the already hurting community and causes a rush of calls to counseling hotlines.

 

December 4
Columbine Rebels beat Cherry Creek High School, winning the school's first statewide varsity football title.

 

December 15
A Columbine student receives a bomb threat from a Florida student. After authorities are contacted, the school is closed and mid-semester exams cancelled.

 

December 16
Despite the bomb threat, the school holds the celebration Holiday Express, using Bruce Springsteen's stage donated for the event.

"It was great. There were local celebrities. And it just was very uplifting and very healing," Principal DeAngelis recalled.

 

January 20
The Jefferson County school board supports 4-1 a plan to tear down the existing library, and build a new library and atrium.

 

January 21
Local businesswoman Sharon Magness pledges $250,000 to build the new library. Children bring in their piggy banks to help.

 

February 14
Students Stephanie Hart and Nick Kunselman are shot to death at a Subway sandwich shop two blocks from school. The murders remain unsolved.

 

March
Assistant chaperone and English teacher Claudia Abbott and Advance Placement English students visit the United Kingdom. In Dunblane, Scotland, they attend a memorial dedication five years after a school shooting tragedy in which a teacher and several students were killed. "Grief is a universal language," Claudia says.

 

April 20
The one-year commemoration of Columbine shootings draws national attention.

 

May 4
The suicide of Columbine student Greg Barnes re-opens emotional trauma.

 

May
Graduation

 

June
The second-floor library, where 10 students were killed, is razed, preparing room for an atrium over the first-floor food court.

 

August
The artwork of Virginia Wright-Frierson is suspended from the atrium's ceiling. (Link to art story.)

 

School Year 2000-2001

September
English teacher Jason Webb learns students and teachers are avoiding the temporary library housed in a doublewide trailer, in part, according to Webb, "because of what had happened in the previous library."

Webb spearheads a project to put an aquarium in the temporary library.

Parents and teachers form the school-based organization Heart of Columbine, which was inspired by Holocaust survivor Gerda Klein to turn tragedy into hope and survival.

 

October A 10th-grade student commits suicide, setting off yet another emotional backlash.

 

May 25
Healing of People Everywhere (HOPE) foundation fundraising meets goal of $3.1 million in six months. The funds are used to convert the old library into an atrium and build a new library.

 

May
Governor Owens' Columbine Review Commission Report is released. Later Years

May 2002
Freshmen at the time of the shootings graduate. Multi-colored graduation tassels commemorate the fallen.

January 2004
The fifth-year commemoration approaches. "There's almost as much media attention now as there was five years ago," DeAngelis said.

 

February 2004
New evidence, such as bullet-riddled chairs and computers, are placed on display in Littleton to the dismay of many community members.

 

March 2004
Kiki Leyba visits Hawaii and speaks to high school students about the tragedy. Students from the Kamehameha Schools post thank you letters to Leyba.

 

April 20, 2004
The fifth year commemoration of the tragedy focuses not on those murdered as "victims" but celebrates them as "people" who are loved and remembered.

 

July 20, 2004
Former President Bill Clinton vows to assist in fund-raising efforts for a permanent Columbine memorial to be built in Clement Park, adjacent to the school.

$350,000 is raised at a $250-a-plate dinner, along with a $100,000 donation from the Coors family. The Columbine Memorial Foundation has raised $1 million toward its goal.