April 20, 1999
My generation has a special community trauma, a trauma where we will never know a time where school was a safe place. I was in my 6th grade classroom, sitting towards the back of the room, against a wall of windows. We got news that we were on lock down. What the hell was lock down? I had no idea then but that was the first of many during the rest of my life. We were told there had been shooting at one of the high schools. My brother went to high school nearby! We tried to get more information but they would only shared very little. They decided to let us out of school at the regular time and they told us to go straight home. I ran home that day.
We watched hours upon hours of Columbine reporting. Endless stories and pictures of the Columbine tragedy. I watched kids my brothers age run out of their school. I saw fear and devastation in their eyes. It could have been my brother, it could have been me. My family went to the vigils at Clement Park near the school. Our community never really recovered. We got through it but it is caused deep scars to our community. This is our tragedy, this is our trauma, Columbine will never be forgotten.
The Recent News
Flash forward to earlier this week; 18 year old Sol Pais traveled to Colorado and purchased a shotgun. It was report that Sol was obsessed with the Columbine shooting and made “non-specific threats” to our schools. On Monday, she flew to Denver. Oddly, she purchased 3 One-Way tickets to Denver for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Honestly, there is so much about this story that gives me rage. This story had so many failures: FBI, legal, law enforcement, FAA, school system, familial, and mental health. This was a Multi-system failure to both our community and to Sol Pais. After hearing about how this sad story ended, it made me question if he overreacted.
Community trauma is a real thing; think PTSD for entire communities. While we may have grieved the trauma, we are reminded of Columbine every year and every time there is another. There is no moving on, this is a part of our history and piece of every school shooting moving forward. We closed out schools and we created a statewide man hunt. Our community exhibited hypervigilance in response.
This week, I spent lock down day in weird space. I dropped my little one off a daycare, all the classrooms were dark and windows we blocked. This was my first Lock down/Lockout as a parent. It hit me hard. My child will experience this as the 2nd Generation to the Columbine trauma. My child will grow up in a world where lock down procedure is in the enrollment paperwork and it is just a matter of time until we experience it.
School shootings happen and the parents who experienced the trauma of Columbine 1st hand, will be working on coping with all of this with their own children. Generational Trauma is real. Community Trauma is Real. Now, the Columbine Generation has started to have kids of their own. None of us will be able to imagine a world where school is a safe place for children and teens.