I remember small drops of time, little moments that were given to my memory as if to say – this was real, this happened, and your generation will be better because of it.
There I sat, eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I had strategically cut with my favorite star shaped cookie cutter – yes this was what we did before uncrustables, gasp. I sparingly picked at the peanut butter side knowing I had only put a sliver on the bread to justify and indulge in the jelly – smuckers always had it right. I try to maneuver the sandwich between each hand in perfect balance to keep it from spilling over onto the floor below me, I push the power button on the then “flat screen” television and listen to the familiar jingle as I turn my back knowing the TV’s bulbs are warming up.
I take my favorite seat on the couch in the middle, that perfect spot where you sink into the cushions as though they are embracing you in a hug, but when it comes time to stand up and be productive – you find yourself stuck and committed to the comfort of the energy. I wrap myself up in a blanket as a cool breeze from the April month whips into the living room through an open window (if you should know anything about me as a child, teen, adult, fetus – whatever…I love sleeping with the window open) I pull it tight around me and finish the sandwich I had just delightfully demolished. When I look up to the screen I am welcomed with the news station “sudden alert” update, I hear a weird beeping like it is trying to inform me of unsound and hasty weather – nope that’s not it, anyone from the midwest knows there is a small enough graphic presented with the information of which counties are hell over head in trouble with weather, the graphic that let’s you know “oh shit that’s me” but not quite big enough to know for sure.
I read the bottom screen as it scrolls rapidly…what even is a massacre – I know we’ve read about this in social studies but hell I wasn’t paying anywhere near the attention I should have been”…
“Where is Columbine located – is this in relation to Christopher Columbus, should I call my mom since she isn’t home yet?”
I pass on that idea and decide to turn up the volume so I can actually hear what is going on and maybe connect a few dots here, see the extent of my vernacular is limited – my brain has only seen a world of one teacher a day, seven subjects, oregon trail, doctor quandry, everything was PC, schools had gym & recess, we had lunch tickets – not pins yet, we scraped our knees and it was ok to cry; the faculty didn’t call the parents as though someone was being beat, these were the days of no worry where we swung on the swingsets with our best friends to pass time, and played in trees while making secret clubs because we thought that was cool. We were in our self created bubble that was quite warm and quite safe – we were in the 4th grade, at recess we played four square – at lunch we ate tater tots…and liked them – at class we actually learned something – and at the end of the day actually enjoyed going home to see our parents whom we had missed from the long absence.
We weren’t old enough to breathe independence but we were close enough to smell it – we hadn’t even come close to the real world or anything associated with it, we didn’t hear of kidnappings and Jaycee Dugard, we didn’t know what a pedophile was or what their intent was at our softball games …we were safe, we were made safe, and we were constantly assured of our safety – in between any given tornado drill….which sucked if you had the smelly kid next to you or someone so anxious they farted – that was just awful.
Our world was small, and warm, we had love, and birthday parties, we didn’t pay taxes or work part time jobs, we enjoyed the freedom and fullness our miniscule world had to offer…until that cold day that reflected through an entire nation in grief on one brief moment in time that will never leave any of us the same
I will spare the disparaging details of that horrific day to anyone that is not informed, a fine tuned search entry guess through google should lead you straight away to the answer.
Fastforward 12 some years
And here I stand staring at these blue windows that so vividly kept repeating the reel on my TV screen that awful day – I recognize them but I don’t feel the same way my 4th grade self did…Yes I know I’m a different person, in a different time, and a different distance from that time long ago – but it doesn’t change what happened that day, the situation that forever changed the idea of what public high school meant to all of us, what our perception of safety was, and where we could feel comfortable/loved/and safe once again.
I breathe the air in deep and I close my eyes, I remember that picture of students bodies being dangled from these very windows – people lying on stretchers exactly where my feet were planted and loved ones mourning known losses within arms reach of me – we are in a different time, but that moment and those memories will never leave me; I will never forget these blue windows those scared faces, and all the selfless acts I read about at this very location. Columbine changed the history and knowledge of protection and safety for generations to come – and as I sit here typing this as my 23 year old self I know the truth’s and sadness of today’s society in which status is more important than characteristic – souls can be bought after beauty – and infamy can be attained in a single credit card swipe. I also know the atrocities in which our vision of safety has since been changed and formed – before that day the world was one, green, loved, happy; after that day, the world digressed and the evils took over – I unfortunately know who Jaycee Dugard is, I know what a war means, I relentlessly have to pay taxes more than I ever could have imagined, I know what a bomb threat is inside of the safe walls of school – I know what a national threat is, and I unfortunately know how many people’s lives can be lost in a short amount of time – the world we grew from on that unfortunate day has not become brighter, rather, a more cruel – dangerous – and scary place.
Staring at this beautiful memorial that has been erected in honor of those lost selflessly that day I am speechless, I am among other bodies that are reading alongside me and probably with me but I say nothing, I wander around while beads of sweat fall from my brow and I am silent – I feel moved. It’s nothing I can put into words I just feel completely, physically, emotionally moved – this place is no longer one of sadness, nor is it of joy – this place is a sacred ground that will be visited for decades to come – the unfortunate events that took place for this to be here will be in history books my children will read and I will explain to them a story very similar to the one you have just read, this place is at peace, I felt as though I could lie in the grass and take a nap, I felt as though I could hug the woman reading the stones to her son next to me, I felt whole – In some weird ass backwards way; the Columbine Massacre brought not only people together on such a deep emotional level, it moved a national to tears of regret, tears of sadness, and tears of sorrow; this single event shook the Earth in shock waves we weren’t even introduced to, because of this event I’m standing here today reading the bios of the beautiful lives lost all too soon.
I know not one of these names personally but as I continue reading onto the 3rd or 4th name and story I pull my sunglasses down to hide the tears that are flowing from places I didn’t know were there – I am conflicted with this feeling of wholeness and that memory of helplessness – I will never forget that day, nor the lives that were lost before there time.
Hug your loved ones, kiss your parents, and don’t wait until tomorrow to do what you can today.
This is what you see behind the school – as though you are looking at those hopeless blue windows, you turn your back and see such peace.
afterthought: My husband and I are now proud owners of a small townhome/apt 3 miles from Columbine High School – the peaceful calm feeling we both shared that day at the memorial has followed us to our new home not too far away – we couldn’t be more happy and whole in the blessings of our lives.