Apr 24, 2007

Reliving tragedy: From Columbine to Blacksburg, one student recalls her memories of both events

by Amy Field, Asst. News Editor
I am a journalist. At least, that is what I want to be someday. I have been trained to write well, write fast and write under pressure. I have learned that plagiarism is bad. I have learned how to cover stories and how interview individuals. But I have not been taught how to deal with human pain. I’ve had no classes covering the steps of grieving and how to comfort those who suffer from the inner stabbings of sadness. I don’t know how to interview a student who just lost movement in his shoulder and his good friend — both to bullets from the same gun. I’m at a loss at how to ask questions of a suddenly daughterless mother. I am a journalist — and I am unprepared.

I am a student. I felt numb when I saw the college campus on television, so physically different from my own and yet so similar in its purpose — to educate, to train up workers — those who will make this country great in the coming years. A school isn’t defined as a place to be safe, but the shooting came as a shock. A school isn’t supposed to be dangerous, either. I tried to picture my campus — usually alive and humming with the movement of a busy student body. Then I tried to picture that same campus silence by death.

Starkly empty. Mournful. Clouded with grief. I can’t make that vision seem real. But it was real at Virginia Tech last week. Still, as the university’s administration makes accommodations for students to complete the year, that picture is real. As real as the bullets of the killer who made this happen.
I am a Coloradoan. I remember a Tuesday morning, much like last Monday. It was 1999 and I was looking forward to being a freshman in high school. Even though I’d been home schooled all of my life, high school seemed like an exciting place to go. I remember listening to the radio. The DJ mentioned something about a school — an entire school — being held hostage by gunmen.

I ran to the television and joined the world in watching something more riveting than Court TV. I remember helicopter shots of the building, the relieving sight of students filing away from the building and listening to my mom yell, “Look at that! He’s jumping out! He’s jumping down!” as Patrick Ireland and other students escaped the school building via a second-story window. My mom kept repeating that the house she and my dad were going to buy when they first moved to Denver was one right across from the school.

“I never realized we might have been protected because we decided not to buy it,” she said softly. I watched photos of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold continuously flash on our fading Zenith TV screen. They had been loners, each other’s friend. They classified themselves as outcasts and dressed to match. I heard their recorded praises of Hitler and their words against God. Eight years later, I saw an ABC headline announce that Cho had been a loner and he kept it that way. And I remembered.
Last Friday, April 20, marked the 8-year anniversary of the Columbine shootings. The marks of the attack have not faded — I have friends who have scars, inside and out, that will never heal completely. The shock and pain is lessened, but I’m not sure if it ever really goes away.

Cho said he believed that Klebold and Harris were his brothers, his role models. I believe they deceived themselves. They were victims of the lie that revenge is everything and life means nothing. They acted on that belief, thinking that others had forced them to take the measures that they did. But they alone were responsible for their actions, no doubt. No one made them pull the trigger.
After the shootings in Colorado, signs began to appear reading, “We are all Columbine.”

It is interesting that, in such a divided society, those who differ on every level accept such general statements. And sadly, our country has been brought together once again.
In unison, we say, “We are all Hokies.”

Contact Amy Field at afield@liberty.edu.
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