LITTLETON, Colo. — This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School tragedy. Twelve students and a teacher were killed by two student gunmen at the Jefferson County school on April 20, 1999, in a crime that ushered in a new and violent era of mass shootings.
All this week, FOX31 has special coverage in remembrance of the victims of a crime that is still very raw for our community.
With that in mind, we’re approaching the 20th anniversary a little differently. We won’t be showing any images from April 20, 1999, we won’t be playing any 911 recordings and we won’t be using the names or pictures of the shooters.
Instead, we’re focusing on the stories of hope that have emerged from the heartbreak.
And we saw hope on full display when we met with Columbine families inside the school’s remodeled library late last month.
“Sometimes, it just seems like it was yesterday, you know? Sometimes, it seems like it was a dream. And then reality comes and hits you,” Rick Townsend told FOX31. His daughter Lauren, 18, was one of ten students shot to death in the school’s library.
“In some ways, it seems like 50 years, in some ways it seems like two years. It depends on the day and the circumstances,” Darrell Scott said, whose daughter Rachel, 17, was the first student killed in the massacre.
Twenty years later, Tom Mauser still wears the shoes his son Daniel, 15, was wearing when he was killed at Columbine. Mauser wears the shoes to symbolize what it’s like to walk in the footsteps of a victim.
“I still try to keep it to a minimum when I wear them. I went down to the state house a week or two ago when there was some kind of wet snow, and I was like, ‘Am I going to wear them?’ I don’t want to do anything that risks them,” Mauser said.
He wears them every time he lobbies for a change in gun laws, which is something his own son was curious about. The two had a conversation about the Brady Bill not long before Daniel was killed.
“That was the motivating factor. It can’t be just mere coincidence that two weeks before the tragedy, he asked me about loopholes in gun laws. And then he’s killed with a gun that was purchased through one of those loopholes. It still amazes me,” Mauser said.
Being back at Columbine isn’t always easy for students like Sean Graves. He was shot six times and partially paralyzed in the attack. He spent two years in a wheelchair. Now, he fears for his own young daughter.
“I’m not going to lie. There’s been many sleepless nights, just constantly worried about how am I going to protect my child. How do we protect our children?” Graves told FOX31.
“My mom always said that you have no idea until you become a parent. You’re not going to have any idea the amount of stress that was on us as parents. And I always thought, ‘I’m the one in the wheelchair. I’m the one going to (physical therapy). What are you talking about?’ And then the shoe is on the other foot and I’m like, ‘Wow,'” Graves said.
The 20th anniversary reminds Graves of just how far he’s come.
“I have a bad morning because my arthritis is killing me or I got to go shovel the driveway again. And then I realize, well, I was in a wheelchair 20 years ago. And then I’m like, ‘You know, I’m going to go shovel that driveway,'” Graves said.