FEATURE

Voices of Columbine

Five years after the tragedy that shook our nation, the people of Columbine High School reflect on growth and healing.
Photography by Jennifer Warbug

Columbine High School has weathered so many storms.

The first storm, when teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan

Klebold shot and killed 12 students and a teacher on April 20, 1999, at the Littleton, Colo., school, was the fiercest.

Message of support "We Are Columbine"

But another storm — clouds of guilt, of grief, whirlwinds of questions, blame and shame — has lingered for the five years since, bolstered and twisted by the glare of the world's media.

Teaching Tolerance spent nine days at Columbine during the 2003-2004 school year, leading up to the five-year anniversary of the shootings.

We didn't set out to reopen old wounds, though we sometimes did; that's a fact of life at Columbine. We didn't set out to join the news vans and mini-cams, lights and lenses probing the school.

We went to Columbine to listen, to gather the stories of a school community struggling, in the words of Principal Frank DeAngelis, to reconnect.

DeAngelis recalls standing outside the school, on a cold morning after the shootings, thinking, "I've been here 20-some years. This is not the school I know and love."

Few schools have weathered such tragic storms, but all schools can learn from the lessons of Columbine — lessons of healing and recovery, lessons of struggle and unity, lessons about finding hope when all seems lost.

As teacher Kiki Leyba put it, "We've been through the death of a school and rebirth. And redemption as well."

Virginia Wright-Frierson oil painted panels at Columbines library
North Carolina artist Virginia Wright-Frierson donated oil painted panels that hang from the are were former second-floor library was raze