Fearing Colorado

Dear Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and James Holmes,

There are so many things to love about Colorado it’s almost impossible to imagine that you are hiding within all the beauty that state has to offer, waiting to strike and splash a bloodbath upon the canvas of that beauty, leaving it almost unrecognizable.

My favorite thing to do when I lived in Fort Collins, Colorado was go to Horsetooth Reservoir and take a running leap off the highest cliff and go diving into the ice cold reservoir below. It was the most daring and dangerous thing happening in Fort Collins and even with the ghosts of Matthew Shepherd and the victims of Columbine not far behind us it seemed the worst that could happen would be a scraped knee or busted lip that could possibly result from this daring act.

When I visited Colorado the February before I would need to make a final college acceptance decision in my senior year of High School it was the beauty of the state, the kindness of the people, the gentleness of the environment that encouraged me to say this would be my final resting place for the next four years, if not more. It was a refreshing change from Los Angeles and from the danger that lay around every corner, the innocence used only for the purpose of releasing your guard before its deadly strike. I was happy and excited and looking forward to living in a place of peace for awhile.

Then on April 20, 1999 I met my best friend at the gym and I stared in mesmerizing terror as I climbed onto the treadmill beside her and watched the replay of the days’ Columbine shootings as they played again and again on the newscast in front of us. For the next hour we ran in absolute silence, our headphones tuned to the mass destruction spilling out of  a high school forty minutes away from where I’d committed to spend the next four years of my life. We watched in expanding horror and terror the aftermath of a shooting that killed 13 people and wounded 23. As we stepped off the treadmill on that day which has started off with little more than the normal high school pressures on our mind my best friend asked the question that had been weighing in both our hearts since the onset of the first new story,

“Are you still going to go to Colorado?”

Without a doubt I told her that of course I was still going, while tragic, this was a once in our lifetime occurrence and never again would we hear about something like this happening in a state such as Colorado. Naively I assured her I would never again be touched by this kind of tragedy.

My freshman and sophomore year of college my roommate was in the graduating class that never saw Rachel Scott and Lauren Townsend walk across the stage with them. Never would I have imagined that more than ten years later she’d be calling me to once again say that she was integrally connected to a mass shooting in Denver. That several of the 71 shot by James Holmes were our friends and former classmates. I never expected that 10 years after I’d left Colorado I would be personally touched and affected by a shooting of mass destruction in Aurora, Colorado.

I woke Friday morning to an urgent message for a conference call to be scheduled later that afternoon. Those who were still in the Denver area should report immediately to the hospital and those who weren’t should stand by for news and updates. One of our own had been shot and seriously injured. In college I’d studied rampage shootings in detail, as an educator I wanted to fully understand the impact I could have on these disturbed individuals and hoped that I would be able to have a lasting impact on them such that I could intercept tragedies such as this. I studied Kip Kinkel with fascination, sure that if his counterpart every showed up in my class I would be able to reach him and prevent a tragedy such as this from ever occurring again. I had no idea that I would be directly impacted by Virginia Tech, Calvin Sharp and now another Colorado shooting.  I may never know the far-reaching impact I’ve had in education over the past ten years but I do know this much to be true:

As I flung my head back into my pillow after that phone call, shocked and mortified, I couldn’t help reflect on the fragile reality of peace that had once again been shattered around me.

Love Always and With Prayers in My Heart,

Sunny

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