Columbine 20: Traditions help families get through somber anniversary

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LITTLETON, Colo. — April 20 is a somber day for the 13 families who lost loved ones at Columbine High School. And over the last 20 years, traditions have helped them get through the day.

Most Columbine families will spend part of Saturday at a remembrance service at the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park near the high school. The rest of the day is often spent with close family.

“We go to his gravesite, put new flowers and just wait for the day to pass. It’s a terrible day,” said Tom Mauser, who lost his son Daniel in the shooting.

The school district will open Columbine’s doors to families and graduates on Saturday. Most years, former principal Frank DeAngelis reads the names of those killed. Then, the families get time to themselves inside the school.

“We come here to the school, we have a little ritual and we leave a rose at the spot where she was killed. We go to her grave, and so it’s very private. Meet with our kids afterward at a restaurant, and don’t do much else,” said Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was the first student killed at Columbine.

“I’ll go my sister’s grave, but the rest of the day is with family. It’s with siblings and parents and my girlfriend and just time with people who are important to me,” said Rachel’s brother Craig Scott, who survived the shooting.

There’s a special spot inside Columbine where the family of teacher Dave Sanders will spend part of the anniversary. A spot in the hallway where a giant columbine flower is inlaid on the school’s floor. It’s the exact spot where Sanders was shot.

“Last year, I came and on the flower there were 15 kids painting posters for something amazing, and I thought, ‘This is perfect. That’s Dad’s flower, and all of these kids are sitting there having a great time doing a community service project.’  And it was at that point that I thought, ‘Columbine is doing the right thing,'” said Coni Sanders, daughter of Dave Sanders.

Doing the right thing is something the Columbine families have attempted to do every day for the last 20 years. And for many families, it has meant forgiving that which seems truly unforgivable.

“I’ve spoken many times to many groups who’ve lost their children, and I always encourage them to celebrate the life of the one they lost, whether it’s suicide, violence or a natural death. Celebrate the good things. And it’s very important to choose to forgive,” said Darrell Scott.

“Forgiveness is an issue of your own heart. So, the option is either to forgive or not to, and if you don’t, you’re going to be bitter, angry, looking for revenge. It can ruin your life. Your child wouldn’t want that, and you shouldn’t want that,” Scott said.

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