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Students, Parents Cope With Loss

April 21, 1999

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) _ A day after seeing gunmen open fire in the high school cafeteria where she was eating, Andrea Launer was having trouble eating and screamed in her sleep.

The sophomore was trapped inside the Columbine High School cafeteria for about an hour before she was able to flee to safety. Later, she learned that two friends were hospitalized with serious gunshot wounds and that acquaintances were among the 15 who died in Tuesday’s massacre.

``You feel you can’t force yourself to eat,″ she said. ``My mom told me I was screaming in my sleep.

``I just need to see everyone,″ she said, breaking into tears. She turned to hug a friend before walking into a prayer service at the Light of the World Roman Catholic Church.

About 1,500 people _ grief counselors, clergy, parents, students and Littleton residents _ filled the church for an informational meeting and prayer service, hoping for answers and seeking solace.

Counselors and volunteers met the parents and students as they arrived, offering them information about stress and trauma.

``This is what we call a crisis response,″ said one of the counselors, Robin Finegan, who assisted victims after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. ``Healing is when we begin to integrate the response into your life.″

A 12-foot-long, weather-worn wooden cross that had been used during a recent Easter service leaned on its side against a tree outside the door, adorned with flowers and cards brought by grief-stricken students.

Stephanie Roybal cried as she left the church with her son Justin, a sophomore who escaped without injury, and her younger son, Daniel, a middle school student.

``I think the best relief is the people, the hugs, the caring,″ she said.

At the home of Beth and Larry Nimmo, whose daughter, Rachel Scott, is believed to have died, the Rev. Bruce Porter was offering help.

``I spent a year and a half in Vietnam and I didn’t have to deal with anything like what these kids are going through,″ Porter said.

Near Columbine, teacher Michelle DiManna was left numb. ``It’s mind-boggling,″ she said.

Student Lindsey Neam, 17, said: ``I don’t know if I ever want to walk through the hallways again where people were lying dead. My brother will be a freshman next year, and he says he never wants to go to this school.″

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