Columbine: 10 years later
How lives changed in the decade after a school shooting.
(Page 2 of 2)
Sense of isolation dogs a studentSkip to next paragraph
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Devon Adams was 16 the Saturday three days before the attacks. Though she was only a sophomore, she was at the senior prom, dancing to the classic '80s track, "Take My Breath Away," with Dylan Klebold. She was not his date, but they were friends – close enough that she wanted to tell him how much that friendship meant to her. She never did.
Now it is a lesson she has carried every day since. "Not only do you have to appreciate what you have, but you have to express that appreciation. If there are things that are left unsaid, it's a lot more difficult to heal."
She is 26 now – an information-systems manager for a solar-energy company in Denver and is, at times, downright perky. But any mention of April 20 can turn her mood in an instant. Driving by Platte Canyon High School – site of another Colorado school shooting – can be a jarring reminder. Yet those who know her background and try to be overly sensitive only make her feel awkward.
"I don't have the right to be mad, because it's not a big deal to everyone," she says.
Last month, she shut her office door and put up a "Do not disturb" sign when a teenage student in Winnenden, Germany, killed 15 students and himself. "I feel isolated a lot," she says. "I feel very different [from other people]."
There is also mixed emotion: At Columbine, she was friends with two of the students who were killed, along with one of the perpetrators.
"You stop trusting yourself," she adds. "You stop trusting your own judgment."
Adams says the shootings forced Columbine students "to grow up in one day."
A caring community, found
Kirsten Kreiling was at work on April 20. When she first heard the news, she thought it must be a senior prank. By the end of the day, she was watching thudding helicopters in the sky above Columbine on the news.
The blond, plump-cheeked owner of Maverick Press did not even know anyone who attended the school. But "We all suffered a loss that day, one way or another," Ms. Kreiling says. "That was a loss of knowing something like this could happen."
Yet she also gained something: a sense of togetherness. Five years after the shootings, fundraising for the Columbine memorial had stalled at $1.2 million, Kreiling says. She stepped in to help raise $1 million more to show the families of the victims "this community still cared."
Kreiling sees some positive changes in the community: She hears that many Columbine alumni have become medical and mental-health workers. There are scholarships in the names of the victims. "I'm much more aware there's such a bigger, broader sense of community than I ever thought there was."
• Jeff Kass is author of "Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation's search for answers."