Columbine 20: Complete strangers still say ‘thank you’ to family of hero teacher

LITTLETON, Colo. -- Twenty years later, complete strangers still come up to the family of Columbine High School business teacher Dave Sanders to say thank you.

Sanders heard the gunshots on April 20, 1999 and ran to the cafeteria and commons area to warn students. Dozens of them got out of the school safely because of him. He was killed when he tried to save even more students.

"You know, somebody had said he was an adult and that's different than losing a child. And it is, very much so. But my goodness, he saved so many kids," his daughter Coni Sanders told FOX31.

"And now, I run into kids who had him as a teacher, and one of them said, 'Can I take a picture of you holding my child?' And I said, 'Why?' And they said, 'Because he wouldn't be here without your dad.' And so we're seeing these generations of kids who had a chance to grow up to be adults and parents and grandparents (because of my dad). My sisters and I are so proud," Coni said.

Dave Sanders touched thousands of lives in his 25 years as a teacher and coach at Columbine. His daughter just wishes more people knew his name instead of the names of the killers.

"The more than we focused on them, the bigger that following became," Coni said. It's why she believes in "No Notoriety" for mass shooters.

"And boy, the research is strong that if we just stop making this a competition of the deadliest, the worst, who did it, what their motivation was," Coni said. "It's a fascination that has taken on a life of its own. And we want to make sure that that doesn't continue."

To mark the 20th remembrance of the Columbine tragedy, we're telling the stories of victims and survivors in a unique way.  We're not showing images of the school from April 20, 1999.  We're not airing 911 calls from that day, and we're not showing the names or pictures of the killers.

Saturday, April 20, 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the shooting - and we have special programming on FOX31 and Channel 2.

At 5:30 pm and 9:30 pm on FOX31, and at 9:30 pm on Channel 2, join us for "Columbine 20: Heartbreak to Hope," a commercial-free half-hour special anchored by Jeremy Hubbard highlighting Columbine victims and survivors. 

At 8:00 pm on Channel 2, we're airing the broadcast premiere of "13 Families: Life After Columbine," a documentary featuring each of the families most closely affected by the Columbine tragedy.  The documentary will air commercial-free.

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