Denver Christian Academy student Adrian Joel becomes overwhelmed with emotion as he approaches the car of his friend John Tomlin who was one of the victims of the 1999 Columbine school shooting in Littleton, CO.
“It brought the nation to its knees, but now that we’ve gotten back up, how have things changed; what have we learned?”
—from the Columbine Memorial in Littleton, CO.
REMEMBER COLUMBINE !
I figured after almost 10 years of research that time doesn’t lessen the pain. And not a year goes by when this day brings radio silence along with it.
I learned so much from Columbine. It saved my life many years ago.
I also learned that this day isn’t only about grieving, but also about celebrating the lives of all 15 that day. And that’s what I’ll be doing.
On April 19, 1999, a day before the massacre, Dylan Klebold, Dustin Gorton, a junior, and Eric Jackson, a senior, filmed a “Breakfast” video called “American Dream” for a school project since Dylan was concerned about his grades. Jackson filmed the video and actually had it in possession in his backpack when the massacre began at Columbine.The video was filmed in Gorton’s 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle at the Burger King at 6797 W Ottawa Ave, Littleton, CO 80128.
Rachel’s red acura being towed to Nashville, TN from Littleton, CO to be used on set for the filming of I’m Not Ashamed.
Little backstory on the car: On the drive to school on the morning of April 20th in this car, Rachel and her brother Craig unknowingly saw each other for the last time. Rachel was in a hurry to get to school on time and rushed Craig into the car. They fought on the way, Craig called her names, but the fight ended when Craig slammed the door on Rachel. That was their last interaction alive.
Also, to repay her parents for the car, Rachel took a job at Subway, not very far from the school. On April 21st, Rachel’s car became one of the many makeshift memorial sites found around the school since it was the last place she ever parked it, a reminder she’ll never drive it home.
An experience from __________ - Littleton, CO - Early 2000s
When I was nine years old, my Siberian husky died in my living room.
I was young, but I still remember so much about her and how she helped me through a rough time in my life.
My Mom died when I was very young, leaving me and my Dad alone in our big empty house in suburban Colorado. I remember the funeral, to an extent, but only because I remember how torn up my Dad was. At a very young age, I remember trying my hardest to be as independent as I possibly could so that he didn’t have to deal with my problems on top of what he was going through. I realize now that was a silly idea, as I was all he had left of Mom, his wife, but it made sense to me at the time. If I ever felt sad, sick, angry, or anything negative, I would hide off in my room and deal with it on my own.
I’m guessing that my fits were born from that repression.
I would have these fits of confusion, where my body felt like it was out of control. I would shake, unable to properly let my Dad know what was happening because I couldn’t sort out my thoughts. Everything would move too quickly to the point where I would just freeze up in a ball and cry. Today, I realize that they were panic attacks of some sort, but at the time I had no concept of what was going on. I felt like I was dying and there was nothing that I could do to stop it.
It wasn’t until we got Bella, the six month-old little ball of fluff that she was, that I found some way to deal with these attacks.
The night that we brought her home, I had one of my fits. My dad and I were watching “The Mask” on VHS when, out of nowhere, he noticed that my eyes were rapidly darting around the room. I started shaking and spilled my drink all over his lap. The tears started streaming down my face and before I knew it, I was balled up on the ground.
Dad went to grab me a blanket and pillow in the other room and, while he was away, Bella came out from her hiding spot under the couch. She had been under there since we brought her home, likely scared of the new environment and people. But despite that, she walked right over to me, sniffed my face, licked it, and curled up against my chest. My tears soaked her fur, but she just nuzzled against me even harder.
Gradually, I calmed down until the tears stopped completely and I fell asleep with this dog curled up in my arms. My Dad said that he just sat there and watched, that he had never seen something have such and effect on me. That was the night that Bella really became my dog.
She helped me like this the entire time we had her. It got to the point where I would feel a fit coming on, and Bella would already be by my side. I’d just bury my head in her fur and the buildup would stop. I loved her for that. I really did.
But of course, there has to be a reason that I’m telling this story to you. Nothing good lasts forever.
We were just sitting around and watching a movie on the couch one night. I don’t remember what it was, but that doesn’t really matter. Bella was curled up under a blanket on my lap, fast asleep. I was fading off myself when I heard her begin to growl. I petted her head and tried to reassure her that everything was okay, but she proceeded to bolt up off my lap and get in some sort of aggressive position by my feet. She was transfixed on the area to the left of the fireplace, growling louder and louder by the second, occasionally glancing back at me. It seemed like she was trying to protect me from something that I couldn’t see.
“Bella, shush!” my Dad yelled at her, but she didn’t move a muscle. It was only when he went to grab her by the collar that she began to bark like she was rabid. It wasn’t the same way that she would bark at squirrels or bunnies in the yard. It wasn’t even like when she would see another dog while we were on one of our walks. No, this was angry; this was scary.
“Dad, what’s wrong with her?” I yelled at him, as tears began to run down my face. I could feel a fit coming on. Bella couldn’t help me this time.
Without warning, she bolted over to the fireplace, running so quickly that she stumbled and smashed against the glass cover, shattering it and cutting her on her side. Even then, she didn’t stop barking. It looked like she was fighting against something that wasn’t there. She was biting, growling barking, and posturing.
At this point my eyes were soaked with tears. My Dad was trying to approach her calmly, but was afraid to get too close. Bella looked like a dog possessed and I’m sure he didn’t want to get bitten or attacked by her if she decided to turn on him.
She chomped and barked at nothing until- I’m not sure how to describe it. It looked like she tried to jump backwards, away from something. But, when she landed on her front legs, her left one just seemed to give out at the knee. It made a loud cracking noise and bent the wrong way.
She yelped so loud that it hurt my ears, and then quietly began to whimper while backing up against the broken fireplace on her three good legs. She tried to muster an intimidating bark every now and then, but couldn’t seem to manage it.
I couldn’t look away. Even my Dad was helpless, as Bella would bar her teeth whenever he would get closer. Her eyes continued to dart back at the nothing in front of her.
Out of nowhere, she jumped forward again. It looked like she was trying to take a bite out of something, but missed. Her head went straight into the ground and she rolled over on her back. Her legs and back began to flail wildly. The broken leg flipped back and forth on its busted joint, making a sickening grinding noise every time it changed direction. I threw up on the floor.
The whole time, it looked like she was struggling to get something off of her. She wasn’t able to get to her feet again, despite her efforts to roll over. I started to scream at her through coughs when she began to bite fiercely at her own stomach and legs. In seconds, she had apparently drawn blood.
It didn’t take long to stain her fur and snout a dark crimson.
I remember hearing another cracking noise, like a branch snapping, and as suddenly as the whole thing had begun, it all stopped.
Bella went limp, still managing a faint and gut-wrenching whimper as my Dad crawled over to her. He turned her on her side and put his hand over the wound on her stomach. She tried to move around, but couldn’t manage it.
A few seconds later, the whimpering stopped.
Dad put a blanket over her, picked me up, and set me on the couch.
“Just close your eyes, sweetie,” he told me. “Keep them closed and try to sleep. I’m gonna take care of her. I’m going to take care of Bella. I promise.”
I did as I was told. Somewhere amidst my tears, I must have drifted off, because when I opened my eyes, it was morning.
My Dad was picking up pieces of glass near the fireplace. A towel sat on the ground to his left. It was dark blue, but I could still see the blood soaking through it. When he noticed that I had woken up, he didn’t say a word, but calmly walked over and sat with me. There really wasn’t anything to say at the time.
Later, he would explain to me that Bella likely had a tumor in her brain that pushed against part of it and caused her to have such a violent episode. Apparently, she must have jerked around too quickly during her fit and broke something in her back or neck. He said that is why she acted so strangely; he said that is what killed her.
But the most confusing thing to me was how she could tear away at herself like she did. It didn’t make any sense; still doesn’t. It all seemed so unnatural. I’m having trouble visualizing it even now.
I know, I was very young. I could have imagined a lot of this, but I don’t think that I did. It all feels too real.
I just had to get this off of my chest. Thanks, guys.
Columbine High School, 6201 South Pierce Street, Littleton Co.
The school stands in an unincorporated area of Jefferson County outside Denver and near, but not in, Littleton.
Approximately 2,000 students
20 Staff Personnel
25 Exterior Doors
Large Gymnasium, Cafeteria, Library and Auditorium
The school is almost 250,000 square feet
The high school opened in 1973 and was remodeled and expanded in 1994 and 1995. The layout of the school was drastically changed following the remodel, with clusters of classrooms and a new cafeteria and library added to accommodate the growing population in south Jeffco.
The lower level incorporates the cafeteria and food preparation areas, a teachers’ lounge, the first level of a two story-auditorium, and a wing of primarily business, foreign language and special education classrooms.
The upper, main level houses the school’s administration and counseling offices, the second level of the auditorium, the school library, an athletic wing and gymnasium, an art wing, and departmentalized areas for social studies, language arts, math, science and music, both vocal and instrumental.