Monday, April 20, 2009
I’ve been thinking about the gravity of this for days. And I’m not sure why a 10 year anniversary just feels heavier than the others. Everyone is getting back together – there is a breakfast today for the “survivors” and memorial services held last night. This anniversary obviously bears weight for more than just me.
Each anniversary each year brings different things to mind, brings me to different emotions. Last year I was so busy working, I hardly thought of it. Some years I am so overwhelmed by God’s great healing and love in my life that I’m just compelled to worship as I remember the wound afflicted and see that here I am again, whole and free because of his great work in my life. And some years I am so sad, remembering the pain, and remembering others who could not cope as well as I, who later took their own lives. And this year is harder than most.
I’ve been thinking awhile about these last 10 years and about how that one day has affected each day following. I think if I would have known how difficult it would be - if I would have known the pains and struggles that I would endure for years after that one day - I wouldn’t have been so full of hope and strength after the shooting. In this case, I’m glad that I could move forward without knowing what I know now.
There were many struggles that I suffered through after that day. Running through dead bodies and thinking that you, yourself would die while we were hiding there for hours, and the amazing panic and peace that come from an experience like that… it is something that no one should ever have to realize in a day, but especially someone so young as we were then. It truly was a day of lost innocence, as many of the adults had said, which I never understood until I could later see what they had probably anticipated: the ramifications of something so terrible to suffer in for years.
And I truly look back and praise God. God is the victor in this world each day despite the evils that sometimes seem to overwhelm us. God has been a healer in my life and in the lives of many others that were with me in the suffering. But he let me work through the pain, he let me suffer through evils, and I’m glad – it has brought me understanding, strength, and it has brought me closer to him.
I think the worst wound was realized when the first man I loved broke my heart, “I’m sorry. It’s just too hard to love a ‘Columbine girl’”, he said with dry eyes . And for years after that break-up I knew I was masked. Wherever I was where people knew me at all, that’s all I believed I was to them. And I doubted that I would ever be loved for ME ever again – no one would ever love me without pity or curiosity as their motive (whether they knew it or not). And it terrified me. I guess it caused me to hold my heart further into my chest, and trust became difficult. I remember when one of my friends came to me one day at APU and said to me, “everyone is asking me about you – about Columbine – and I’m not sure what to say. They keep telling me that they heard you went crazy, that you have issues.” Was that their perception of me? I remember girls sweetly asking me to join them for a shopping trip or to the beach and when we finally were alone in the car, they all wanted to know, “what was it like?
I’m having nightmares again this last week. Three, actually. But I used to have them 3 or 4 times a week for about 7 years. And in all of them I am hiding or running from gunmen. But I am always a protector of someone, trying to save others. I wonder if this is my mind’s way of healing my wounds of surviving 10 years ago. Well, if I had more courage that day, what good would it have done to have left the shelter of my desk and walk out into the open to confront them? I would have been among the dead and nothing else. But it’s an amazing thing to live through – surviving something that others did not. It’s an awful torture. I’m not saying I wish I had died – I do not wish that at all, not for one minute. I am grateful for my life. But of course, when you are living through the guilt of surviving, you look back and wonder if you were more courageous, if something would have been different. And why me? Why did they die when I survived? And so I reconcile this in my nightmares, though I haven’t suffered them for years until just recently again.
It’s amazing how a few hours in one day can change thousands of lives for years.
How I wish I could be reunited with the others today. I wish I could sit with them in the Columbine High School commons and feel that triumph – here we are again– we are still here – we have overcome. But just knowing you are all there together gives me a strength knowing that I could have been among you.