Columbine Vigil Honors Slain Students, Heroic Teacher

Event calls attention to the trauma suffered by survivors and families
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 20, 2024 12:45 PM CDT
Columbine Vigil Honors Slain Students, Heroic Teacher
Thirteen chairs are left empty with candles and roses to remember those killed in the Columbine High School mass shooting.   (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

A girl who wrote to God in her diaries, a boy with learning disabilities who was just learning to like who he was, and a teenager who would spend every free minute fishing were among the 13 victims of the Columbine High School shooting remembered during a vigil Friday, the eve of its 25th anniversary. The school attack was the worst the nation had seen at the time. As small candles flickered on 13 empty chairs, short biographies of Columbine students Rachel Scott, Kyle Velasquez, and Corey DePooter and the other victims were read one by one. After each, the AP reports, the crowd of about 150 people replied together "never forgotten," and a bell tolled.

The youngest killed in the attack that has inspired dozens of copycat shootings was Steven Curnow, 14. The oldest was teacher Dave Sanders, 47, who shepherded students out of the cafeteria to safety and was shot as he tried to get students upstairs into classrooms. The others killed were Cassie Bernall, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Dan Rohrbaugh, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, and Lauren Townsend. Sanders' daughter, Coni, said her father changed the world by saving hundreds of students. "The kids that he saved now have children, and those children will have children, so generations from now people will know they exist because of his bravery," she said, per the AP.

The vigil, held at a church near the state Capitol, also drew attention to those who were wounded and those who survived the shooting but suffered trauma. Nathan Hochhalter, whose sister Anne Marie was shot and paralyzed, spoke about being trapped in a classroom with about 30 students as they heard gunfire nearby. They were rescued about four hours later by SWAT officers who he said frisked them five times. Six months later, his mother, who had bipolar disorder, took her own life after asking to look at a gun in a pawnshop. She shot herself there. "I just want to use this moment to let everyone know that it's OK to ask for help," Hochhalter said. "These things come in waves and they can hit you when you least expect it," he added.

(More Columbine school shooting stories.)

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