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Slain Students Tenderly Remembered

April 27, 1999

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) _ A ``gentle giant.″ A boy who treated others with ``the utmost respect.″

On the one-week anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, mourners gathered today to remember two teens as this community’s sad string of funerals continued.

Matthew Kechter, 16, was remembered as a tender-hearted, thoughtful yet intense football player. ``He was kind and always treated everyone with the utmost respect,″ football coach Andy Lowry told a crowd of about 1,800 mourners.

A junior with an ``A″ average, Kechter had hoped to start for the football team this fall.

At a second service, friends and family recalled Kyle Velasquez, 16, as a gentle lad, who enjoyed routine tasks, like washing the car. Gov. Bill Owens was one of 800 people in attendance.

``Kyle was known as a gentle giant, and when he looked down on his parents, it was as their little boy,″ said John Newhauser, Kyle’s uncle.

Twelve students and one teacher were slain a week ago today. Students Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, who invaded the school with guns and bombs, committed suicide at the end of their rampage, bringing the day’s toll to 15.

At one of four services Monday, Dan Rohrbough was remembered for the way gave his life holding an exit door open for others so they could flee. Rohrbough, 15, died on the sidewalk, just steps away from safety.

``My name is Nick,″ Columbine student Nick Foss said, looking out at hundreds of mourners crowding Grace Presbyterian Church. ``I’m a senior at Columbine. I don’t know Dan. ... I don’t know his favorite color. ...″ But Foss did know that Rohrbough was a hero.

The Rev. Dwight Blackstock commended the boy’s selfless act.

``Don’t feel guilty,″ he advised other teens who escaped thanks to Rohrbough. ``Thank God. Just thank God. And thank Danny.″

Rohrbough’s father, Brian, also spoke tenderly of his son, a boy who would save an entire year to buy Christmas gifts and loved computer games, cooking and tinkering with electronics.

Looking down at the casket, which included teddy bears and poems, his eyes misty, he said softly: ``Daniel Lee Rohrbough, in life and death, I’m proud of you.″

Earlier Monday, 2,500 people filled the sanctuary and two overflow rooms at the Trinity Christian Center to honor teacher William ``Dave″ Sanders, who spent 24 of his 47 years at Columbine.

When gunfire echoed through the school cafeteria, Sanders led students to safety until he was himself shot in the chest.

``He was running around and I remember seeing him jumping over the chairs and yelling, ’Everybody get down!‴ student Lindsay Dowling told mourners. ``I truly believe he saved my life and many other people’s.″

As Sanders lay dying, students pulled out his wallet and held it open so he could see pictures of his wife and three daughters. ``Tell my girls I love them,″ he told them.

At the funeral, daughter Angela Sanders read a ``letter to daddy″ in which she said she’d always remember their talks on the porch. It contained a postscript: ``The girls and I would like you to know that we love you.″ One of Sanders’ 10 grandchildren, preschooler Austin Sanders, spoke of how his grandfather ``always made good bedtime snacks.″

At another funeral Monday, some 2,000 mourners gathered at the West Bowles Community Church to honor Cassie Bernall, the 17-year-old girl who professed her belief in God just before she was shot.

Pastor George Kirsten told mourners, including rescuers who lined one wall of the church and received a standing ovation, that Cassie died a martyr. ``She went to the martyr’s hall of fame,″ he said.

About 1,200 people packed into the worship area of Foothills Bible Church at services Monday for Lauren Townsend, 18, a candidate for valedictorian and captain of the girls’ varsity volleyball team.

Friends and family recalled a motivated, somewhat shy senior who wanted to become a biologist like her 25-year-old brother, Matt.

``People say that Lauren was a victim,″ he said. ``I don’t think of her in that way. The ugly thing that happened last Tuesday, they couldn’t conquer her beauty.″