Ten Years of Terror


            Growing up, most young people felt a sense of security at school.  It was a place one could go to be around your friends, learn, and not worry about serious violence.  That sense of security was shattered for everyone on April 20, 1999 when Columbine High School seniors, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold unleashed an unprecedented violent attack on their Littleton, Colo. school, killing 12 students, one teacher and injuring countless others. 

            The Columbine massacre is etched on the psyche of everyone who remembers that day.  The image of frightened students running from the school with their hands up is something so horrific that it could have easily broken that community.  However, for those in the community of Littleton, the Columbine massacre has changed from tragedy to triumph as the school marked the tenth anniversary of that fateful event on April 20, 2009.

            In remembrance of those who lost their lives during the Columbine massacre, state lawmakers planned to pass a resolution called “Triumph Over Tragedy,” to honor the anniversary, according to the Associated Press.  A memorial service was held on April 20 at Clement Park, which is located next to Columbine High.  A “lie-in” is also planned at the state capital in support of gun control.

            “It’s a time for the community to come back together again as they did following the shootings 10 years ago,” said organizer Kiersten Kreiling, president of the Columbine Memorial Foundation.

            Directly following the Columbine massacre, and for the following 10 years, the survivors of this school mass murder have showed America what can be accomplished when people in a community come together to overcome past tragedies.  Five Columbine graduates, Brett O’Neill, Katie Tennessen, Chris Welsh, Alise Steiner and Mandy Bowen Cooke, who were students on that fateful day, have returned to their alma mater as teachers, refusing to let the pain of the past stop them from helping their community move forward.

            “It’s like all the roads aligned,” Steiner said, “and I ended up back at Columbine.  I was thinking hard—I was so torn.  But I could not leave.  I feel this is where I’m at, and it’s meant to be.”

            Therefore, if the survivors of the Columbine massacre can overcome their painful past and become a stronger community, then those in the African American community can overcome our problems and become a stronger community as well. 

            Unfortunately for many, growing up in the African American community presented many obstacles that they had to overcome to achieve success in life.  From violence, drug abuse, subpar schools to broken homes, some of the best and brightest in Black America succeeded despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles but escaped to suburbia, leaving their troubled past behind.  However by leaving, they left the future generation of African Americans to learn the lessons of life on their own, without the expertise and experience of their elders.

            Those who survived the Columbine massacre are able to impart wisdom into future generations about the deadly mistakes their former classmates made, which will hopefully prevent similar events from taking place.  However, very successful African Americans, especially teachers, usually do not return to make their childhood communities a better place than they were when they were adolescents.

            Nevertheless, the survivors of the Columbine massacre should serve as inspirations for communities across the globe of what can happen when you give back to your community, not just to those who lived through the horror of April 20, 1999.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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