Monday, April 20, 2009

Columbine Pensieve

My friend Star at Laughing Through Parenting wrote her memories of Columbine this morning. Her thoughts and pictures took me back to that day ten years ago. I remembered some things that I had forgotten, so I am pulling them out of my head for you. Here they are: my silver strands of memory to add to the Pensieve...

Stefanie drove out of the Denver Seminary parking lot just before noon, turning right onto University, heading toward work. She didn't like the song on the radio, so she clicked over to the next station.

A panicked female voice described the unthinkable. Students with guns, dead bodies, confusion. Where? The voice sounded so young.

Stefanie heard sirens.

She turned right on Hampden, listening intently, teary eyed, tight throated, hearing the words: Columbine High School, guns, library, now. The words pounding again and again, different voices, the same shock.

She wondered whether she should turn around and go home, but decided to go anyway. Ami lived just a couple miles from Columbine. Ami was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's and Stefanie was her companion a few afternoons a week.

Another woman lived with Ami; between the two of them and Ami's daughter, they were able to give Ami more time to live at home. They kept Ami fed, and dressed, and accounted for. Ami was dearly loved.

When Stefanie arrived, Ami made it clear that she wanted to go out. Stefanie and the other woman used code language to agree that Ami did not need to hear what was everywhere on the news. Ami 'put her head on' - she put on her wig - and they went out for ice cream.

Stefanie was briefly thankful that Ami's hearing and awareness was not what it used to be. Even the ice cream parlor was hushed. The owner and a couple of customers and Stefanie strained to hear the news on the radio.

Every face registered shock. Grief. Disbelief. Ami was blissfully unaware. Ami finished her ice cream.

Ami mentioned the sirens.

Stefanie's older daughter was in Kindergarten. All the local schools were in 'Lock-down'. Stefanie was glad that her daughter was also blissfully unaware of the day's events when she got home.

Stefanie and Steve decided not to watch any news coverage with their kids. They explained what they thought the kids needed to know, and left out the details.

After the kids went to bed, Stefanie did watch the news.

Many, too many, images burned into memory. One in particular.

A stream of terrified kids running from the school. A young girl wearing a tee-shirt imprinted with one word, "LOVE".

Stefanie did not know any families directly affected. She had friends who knew and ministered to kids who had been there, and heard second-hand stories of terror and miracles.

One to avoid crowds, she accommodated her daughter's need to add flowers and her own note to the makeshift memorial at the park near the school. They added their offering to the thousands of flowers, stuffed animals, notes written by children and teens and adults.

She was a participant, a witness to the community's outpouring of grief, love, and forgiveness. It seemed to stretch on for miles.

A couple weeks later, Stefanie stood in line at Michael's craft store. The clerk described a return she'd had to process. A mother had returned graduation party supplies. Her child did not make it to graduation.

Those are just my memories -- I was just a member of the community somewhat near Columbine High School. I have no perspective of it's long-term impact. We moved away a couple months later.

My kids have grown up and now attend schools that get the occasional bomb threat. My daughter arrived in England in the middle of the security nightmare surrounding the G20 Summit. There are registered sex offenders in my community. The world holds it's dangers, but I will not live in fear.

I will do what Al Velasquez says to do in this video: I will spend time with my kids. Today.


Star Forbis said...

Thank you so much Stefanie for sharing your memories with us. (I'm adding a link to your Blog on mine!)
And I love what you said about spending time with your kids!

Woman in a Window said...

There is no forgetting these things. There is no real moving on, just moving. Last week at our local highschool a child was stabbed. In the middle of nowhere, small town, northern ontario, a child was stabbed while in school. But yet we can't live in fear. What a strange world we live in.

Tracy P. said...

Wow, I'm glad I watched to the very end--what power to hear that mom say of the way she wants to reflect on the totality of her life, "It was peaceful, it was joyous, and we had hope."

I, too, choose not to live in fear. Thanks, Stefanie--beautiful story!