What we were told about "never again" in regards to school shootings turned out to be a colossal and horrible lie. Twenty years ago we were shocked and confounded by the actions of two young men, boys really, who killed twelve of their classmates and a teacher at their high school before shooting themselves. My son was about to celebrate his second birthday, and it never occurred to me that he would grow up as a generation of kids who would experience lockdown drills as part of their time in school.
Not Colorado's state flower. Not the elementary school which I attended, along with both of my brothers and my niece. And not even the high school in metropolitan Denver where this massacre occurred.
Columbine has become shorthand for kids being murdered in their classrooms. The deaths of those children at the hands of other children made the world stop and contemplate our society. Violent video games, rock and roll, parenting, school security. Gun laws. Meanwhile, time marches on and "Columbine style" is a phrase that has become utilitarian. It is used to describe events that were at one time unimaginable.
This past week a woman, a girl of nineteen, was the subject of a nationwide search as someone who was travelling from Florida to Colorado in some sort of pilgrimage to the site or all that death. Police found her, two days before the twentieth anniversary of Columbine. She was not old enough to remember the actual events of April 20, 1999. She grew up in a world that experiences mass shootings with somber acceptance. Twenty years of never again.
The elementary school at which I have taught since before April 20, 1999 recently installed a security camera and a buzzer to keep bad guys out. Twenty years after the fact, if someone came to the doors of our school, they would have to ring a bell to be let in. Deliveries of paper and pencils, visiting parents, students arriving late because of dental appointments, teachers who don't have master keys, concerned community members all have to wait. To be certain that they are not a threat. Because we don't live in a post-Columbine world. We live in a Columbine world.
Until never again.