Hope, Pain on Columbine Anniversary
LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) _ Kim Blair, a Columbine High School senior, was not injured in last year’s deadly shooting spree. But the tragedy still left her deeply scarred, so much so that she’s developed a fear of balloons.
During one visit to Craig Hospital to see a friend wounded in the attack, Kim remembered seeing some balloons behind her. When one popped, the two young women jumped.
``I was so frightened by that silly balloon. I cannot stand any popping sound. It reminds me too much of the gunshots last year,″ Kim, an associate editor of the school newspaper, told The Associated Press.
Some survivors of the Columbine massacre planned to mark today’s one-year anniversary by facing the tragedy together in a private assembly. Others like Kim are staying far from the school _ and the horrible memories.
Kim planned to spend today with her family in a hotel.
``Most of the people I’ve talked to are trying to get as far away from this place as possible _ the ones who were actually there,″ said Karen Nielsen, who was working in the cafeteria when the first shots rang out.
One year ago today, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stormed through the school, killing 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide in the worst school shooting in U.S. history.
Workers unloaded barricades at nearby Clement Park on Wednesday, preparing for thousands of mourners bringing flowers, handwritten messages and teddy bears. A public remembrance service and a candlelight vigil were planned today at the park.
Elsewhere, victims’ families organized memorial services and officials prepared for a statewide moment of silence. The school itself remains off-limits to the public.
Classes are canceled for the day and attendance is not mandatory, but officials expected a large number of students at the morning assembly, which is closed to outsiders.
Columbine’s attendance has dropped steadily this week, and 624 students were absent Wednesday _ about a third of the school, district spokeswoman Marilyn Saltzman said.
Nate Wooten, a freshman, said Wednesday there was little talk about the anniversary among Columbine students.
``They care, I know that,″ said his friend Brad Bootsma, a sophomore. ``I guess they’re just trying to go on with their lives. I know I am.″
Gov. Bill Owens planned to lead a public service at the Capitol in downtown Denver, including a statewide moment of silence at 11:21 a.m., the time the attack began.
Greg Zanis, a carpenter from Illinois who erected memorial crosses near the school last year, brought the wooden structures back to Colorado on Wednesday to restore the tribute.
He planned to put up the 13 crosses today _ each representing those killed by the two student gunman _ in a special area of Clement Park that is reserved for religious symbols.
``They offer the only hope,″ he said. ``It’s the darkest moment in American history.″
On the Net: http://www.hopecolumbine.org