What Have We Learned from Columbine?

On April 20, 1999, in the small, suburban town of Littleton, Colorado, two high-school seniors, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, enacted an all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day. The boys’ plan was to kill hundreds of their peers. With guns, knives, and a multitude of bombs, the two boys walked the hallways and killed. When the day was done, twelve students, one teacher, and the two murderers were dead. The haunting question remains: why did they do it? “
Jennifer Rosenberg
ABOUT.com 20th Century History

I was in Denver two days after the Columbine Massacre. My business concluded early and I drove out to Columbine High School — as if being present might help one understand this senseless tragedy. By then students, friends and family had lined the fences with flowers, stuffed animals, tragic messages and other remembrances. Several tents or shelters had been erected and candles burned here and there.

There were hundreds of people there but it remained still and quiet. People moved from message to message tacked on the fence, reading silently and then moving on. Anguish was the singular emotion etched on each person’s face. My only similar experience was a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial where the silence was broken only occasionally by a relative or comrade of the fallen soldiers whispering a quiet prayer.

This past weekend we were in Denver and we paid a visit to the Columbine Memorial located in Clement Park adjacent to Columbine High School. Like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial there was a complete silence despite the unbroken string of visitors that day. It is the words of the parents and survivors of that day that draw you in.

Most of the memorials were written by the students’ parents. There is a deeply religious presence in these words.

Of Rachel Joy Scott:

“Rachel had a sense of destiny and purpose. She also had a premonition that her life would be short. She wrote, “˜Just passing through, not staying long. I always knew this home I have would never last.‘ The day she died she told a teacher, “˜I’m going to have an impact on the world.’

In her diary she wrote, “˜I will not be labeled as average.’

Her faith in God was expressed in a prayer she wrote: “˜I want to serve you, I want to be used by you to help others.

Her final words were testimony to her life. When asked [by one of the shooters] whether she believed in God, she replied, “˜You know I do!’

At that moment, one of the shooters executed her with a single shot to the head.

Of Cassie Rene Bernall

“Cassie lost her life because of her belief in God. Although her dreams of ushering in new life tragically ended, her stand continues to encourage others to seek new life through Christ. We miss her immensely, but know that she is in a better place. Phil. 3:10-11.”

In contrast, one of the killers, Dylan Klebold was reported to have laughed and sung this as he killed kids, “We hate niggers, spicks … and let’s not forget you white P.O.S. [pieces of shit] also. We hate you.”

The plaques embedded in the walls of the memorial strain to find meaning in the tragedy.

“It brought the world to its knees, but now that we’ve gotten back up how have things changed; what have we learned?”

Sadly, the answer is probably nothing. There is evil in the world and it finds residence in those who willingly embrace hate. It is bolstered by a society that not only turns its back on religion but institutionalizes its opposition in the name of freedom. It showed its face in Littleton, Colorado and in Springfield, Oregon and too many other places to ignore.

It is sad to note that the Columbine Memorial is built on the grounds of a city park — not the public school for which it begs rememberance. The father of Daniel Rohrbough (one of the slain students) wrote at the memorial:

“Dad, I have a question. Why?

“My son, in a Nation that legalized the killing of its innocent children in the womb; in a Country where authorities would lie and cover up what they knew and what they did; in a Godless school system your life was taken. . . Dan, I’m sorry.

“There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked. Isaiah 48:22″

And while society has apparently learned nothing from the massacre at Columbine High School, at least some of the students and their parents will resist the urge to allow life to return to normal.

People talk about defining moments in their lives, but I refuse to let this define me.” (Student)

The definition of normal changed on that day.” (Parent)