School shootings impact two generations: Columbine grad mom, STEM School son

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Deven Lohani is a 9th-grader at STEM School Highlands Ranch, the site of Tuesday’s deadly shooting. His mother, Nicole Lohani, is a graduate of Columbine High School. It’s been 20 years since that tragedy, long enough for America’s school shooting epidemic to impact more than one generation.

“It was awful,” Nicole said, acknowledging that more and more people are no longer surprised to hear about school shootings on the news. But with each school shooting, there’s still the painful reality of anxiety, heartache and despair.

“It almost feels like it hasn’t sunk in,” Deven said.

Deven, 14, will always remember May 7, 2019. Nicole could never forget April 20, 1999.

“You could hear people running up the stairs,” Deven said, recalling Tuesday’s events. “I heard policemen running up the other side of stairs.”

Nicole was in college when those she knew, at her high school alma mater, were caught up in tragedy. Two decades later, the initial reports from her son’s school were eerily similar. She was told there were two suspects, just like Columbine. Nicole, like many other parents, rushed to her son’s school.

“I couldn’t get ahold of my kid, and that was the biggest thing,” she said.

Deven says he realized the seriousness of the incident when he was evacuated from the school building and saw a barrage of police cars everywhere.

Full coverage of STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting

Both mother and son acknowledge that Tuesday’s violence has given them a new, valued perspective on life.

“The first thing I did was give him a hug,” Nicole said. “And he’s not a hugger, now that he’s 14, but he hugged me back finally — and I said, ‘well, thank you.’”

Out of tragedy, Nicole and Deven found more affection. Many more Douglas County parents and children are realizing life is short enough as it is. They’re not taking anything for granted.

Deven says he was on the second floor of the school when shots were fired downstairs. He says the suspects eventually made their way upstairs. Both Deven and Nicole are confident the quick response by law enforcement saved lives — a lesson learned from Columbine.

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