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Slain Students Tenderly Remembered

April 29, 1999

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) _ They gathered to mourn a life interrupted, a teen-ager lost to the violence that convulsed a school and saddened a nation. But those who came together to remember Steve Curnow had a bit of unexpected help _ from Steve Curnow.

In an autobiography he compiled for a recent class assignment, the 14-year-old who died last week in the Columbine High School shootings described ``Me in a Nutshell″ _ a blond kid who loved soccer, knew all the lines from ``Star Wars,″ dreamed of flying F-16s and frequented Angie’s restaurant ``because they make a great pizza.″

``I am not a morning person, and I hate to get up in the morning. ... I would either like to go to college or go into the Air Force or Navy,″ Curnow wrote in the life story distributed at his funeral, where more than 1,000 people, including Gov. Bill Owens, said goodbye.

Curnow and fellow Columbine student John Tomlin, 16, were remembered Wednesday, Tomlin 900 miles away in Waterford, Wis. The final funeral, for Isaiah Shoels, was to be held today.

How do you remember a life without reducing it to anecdote? Curnow’s 20-year-old sister, Nancy, did her best, remembering the things she loved about her brother and the empty spot his absence created.

``Now I don’t have anybody to have fights with over who ... fills the ice cube tray or brings in the groceries,″ she said. ``Now I can’t tease you about your first girlfriend or even when you start to shave.″

Tomlin, a shy, religious boy who adored his Chevy truck, was buried in his native Wisconsin. He was remembered by 450 people and buried in a casket of green and gold _ the colors of his beloved Green Bay Packers, who sent flowers.

His girlfriend, Michelle Oetter, 17, said she wasn’t angry at gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 12 students and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves.

``John’s gone, and we have to take it and trust that God brings good out of it,″ she said. ``There’s nothing that we can accomplish by getting angry at those guys. Anger is what started this.″

Before the service began, Tomlin’s grandmother, Elizabeth, placed her hands on the coffin and cried silently. ``He is a kid that every parent and grandparent wishes they had,″ she said. ``He was always there for you.″

At Curnow’s funeral, mourners received a glossy pamphlet with his story and photos. On the front, Curnow stares out from behind mirrored sunglasses.

The Rev. Billy Epperhart, presiding over his fourth Columbine funeral in a week, acknowledged the personal toll.

``I’ve never even come close to seeing this grief in the eyes and lives of the families of these teen-agers who were so full of life,″ he said.

Epperhart read a statement from Curnow’s mother, Sue, who told of how, as a toddler, the boy who would grow into an accomplished soccer player would suck on his blanket so hard that he left holes in the fabric.

``Thank you,″ Mrs. Curnow wrote, ``for that special moment two weeks ago when you told me, `Mom, I’ll bet there aren’t many guys who talk and discuss things like we do. Anytime you want to discuss anything, I’d like to be there.‴

For the Curnows, the days ahead will not be easy. If the wooden wind chimes by their front stairs ring, it will no longer mean Steve is leaping down the staircase and banging his head upon them in exuberance.

``I know you’re up there flying your F-16 and battling things out with Darth Vader and a light saber,″ his sister said. And she gave him a gentle warning: ``Don’t let them cut off your hand.″

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