Monday, April 20, 2009

Ten Years

The Guardhouse at the Top of Machu Picchu. (Yeah, I'm posting new pictures one at a time to give my fellow readers something to look forward to.)

As I turned on my computer this morning and fired up my RSS reader, I was surprised to read the news that today was the tenth anniversary of the shootings at Columbine. As the day went on and everyone chatted about their surprise so much time had passed and the discussions about what everyone remembered about that day I had a lot of things flash through my mind I hadn't thought about in years.

I was an eighth grader living in the suburbs of Denver at the time, I was attending middle school on April 20, 1999. I remember the lunch room, and looking up at the clock at 11:20. Later we learned that was the time that the shooters entered the high school, but I was just checking to see how much time I had to finish my Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets. (Yeah, my middle school had fast food, didn't yours?)

That afternoon I was sitting in English. The principal came to the classroom door and murmured something to my teacher Ms Byrne (Known for her tough classes, short skirts, and love of the Denver Broncos. She would give you an A regardless of your performance if you got her something signed by a member of the team.) It was a warm spring day and she had her outside door open. She slammed it shut, locked it, and sat down at her desk looking shaken.

The rest of the day I remember in bits and pieces. I remember sitting on the bus staring out at the pond by my house wondering exactly what this would mean for me. I remember my mother's face and her nearly painful hug as I walked in from school. I remember I was wearing overalls with chapstick in the front pocket. (Yeah, and I'm sure they were sexy too.) I remember friends and relatives calling in from around the country to make sure that we were all okay.

What I remember most, and what has had the greatest impact, is what happened next. My school went under lockdown for the rest of the school year. Armed policemen (with big guns I remember) stood at the entrances and if you entered the school during school hours you had to ring a doorbell and the policemen got to scrutinize you, even if you were just coming in from a run with the rest of your gym class. I remember schools closing at a moment's notice due to bomb threats, things that were no longer stupid jokes by seniors. I remember walking the grounds at Columbine, visiting the grassy hills I had seen students fleeing from on television days earlier. We brought white flowers, and I got to see my childhood hero, Stone Phillips. I vividly remember the school sign's message, "GO BAND".

Mostly though, I remember the fear. School was always a safe place, though at times it could be scary if you had done something wrong or had a verbal report to present, but it was never dangerous. I had never had to worry about my fellow students or anything so raw as guns and bombs. School was not safe, life was not safe; a difficult concept for a thirteen-year-old to process.

I learned a lot of lessons in the aftermath of that Spring day. It was my first real interaction with mortality and the reality of life, something that I have since become intimately familiar with. There was a lot of speculation that the boys were angry because of their music, their video games, their movies, their parents, their bullies; and I understand the need to find a cause and fix the catalyst that would cause two children to mercilessly kill their classmates; but there is no way to comprehend some things that happen in our lives. They are senseless, mind-blowing, life-changing, and we must have faith that somehow there is a plan for all of us and that we don't need to have all of the answers, because someone else does.

My blog posts have all been quite heavy as of late... I suppose it's because I'm down and working through some stuff. I'll try and post some more uplifting things soonish.


Mindy said...

Cassandra, it's important to remember that yes - overalls are sexy. They will make a comeback. Mark my words.

P.s. Obsessed with the photos. Good job posting them.

And, whatever you write it pretty much amazing.

Micah and Marilee Woolstenhulme said...


I loved this post. Been thinking about that too since I heard it on the news, though not that I had an intimate experience with Columbine. I did not think it was a downer post-I totally get what you said. Life is life, you're not always going to be the happiest person on the world wide web, and I appreciate that. Thanks for posting true feelings-it's meaningful and it touched me. I hope Micah and I can actually see you and Bob sometime after we graduate this week. (I hope this means I'll have more time-but who knows). Anyway, we'll make it happen.

Kris said...

You have wonderful insight. Your last line is what saves my sanity sometimes.

I remember that day because I went out for a run, tripped on the sidewalk, fell and hurt my arm, finished my 5 miles and later that day and later that day found out my elbow was broken. That evening I helped give a wedding shower (arm in a sling and a two hour drive home after) and that is when I heard about Columbine...from my husband, a middle school principal at the time. I remember thinking that I would never have considered his job dangerous until then.

Kris said...

Loved the picture!

deerhollow said...

The picture is gorgeous! The blog was written beautifully. I think we learn a lot about ourselves when we are at low points - the introspection is good for us. Just hope your coming up soon!! You are a very talented girl. Thanks for sharing.