Sunset vigil marks Columbine’s 10th anniversary
By Dan Elliott
LITTLETON, Colo. — Hundreds attended a sunset candlelight vigil on Sunday to honor the 13 victims of the Columbine High School massacre on the eve of its 10th anniversary.
A steady stream of visitors walked slowly around the Columbine Memorial in a park next to the school in Denver’s southern suburbs. Wildflowers or florists’ bouquets rested on each of the tablets bearing the victims’ names.
The high school will be closed on Monday, the anniversary of the attack, and a private service for families of victims was planned Monday night at the memorial.
Two Columbine students opened fire on the morning of April 20, 1999, killing 12 students and a teacher. About two dozen other people were injured before the gunmen killed themselves.
"It is a time for the community to come back together again as they did following the shootings 10 years ago," said organizer Kirsten Kreiling, president of the Columbine Memorial Foundation.
Families of several of those killed attended but didn’t address the crowd.
The event stirred conflicting emotions for Shelly Jenkins, 25, who said she was in the cafeteria that day but escaped unhurt when she and other students were told to take cover by teacher Dave Sanders, who was killed.
"Happy about them being remembered the way they should be, but sadness that it happened at all," Jenkins said.
Charles Campbell, 58, attended the vigil with his daughter, who was a junior at Columbine at the time of the shooting. His daughter, who declined to give her name, was not hurt.
"We were one of the lucky ones," Campbell said. He said he didn’t have any special words for his daughter on the night of the vigil. "These kids, they’ve progressed and dealt with their grief on their own. I don’t think there’s anything I can add," he said.
Denise Rucks, 53, who was visiting from Parker, 15 miles south, said she felt reverence and peace during the event. She was teaching at a high school in a neighboring county that day.
"You get so many different memories, both as a parent — you look at it from that perspective — as a teacher. What if it had happened at my school? Would I have been able to protect my students?"
The Columbine Memorial is a broad oval nestled into a hill that overlooks the school. An outer wall, called the Ring of Healing, includes a fountain and quotes from survivors and others, including former President Bill Clinton.
A smaller inner circle, called the Ring of Remembrance, includes tablets devoted to each of the 13 victims and inscriptions written by their families. A ribbon reading "Never Forgotten" is etched on the walkway in the inner circle.
The memorial cost about $2 million, including about $400,000 in donated materials and services. Clinton, who was president at the time of the shootings, was a major supporter of the memorial, making two trips to Colorado to raise money for the project and donating $50,000 himself.
It was dedicated in September of 2007 with a ceremony that included the release of 213 doves. Sunday’s observance was the first such vigil at the site, Kreiling said.