How The Columbine Massacre Shaped Survivors' Lives 20 Years Later
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Twenty years ago today, the shooting at Columbine High School - for survivors, memories of their experience come up in unexpected ways. People who were students in 1999 have school-age children of their own now. Colorado Public Radio's Nathaniel Minor has the story of one family.
NATHANIEL MINOR, BYLINE: Amy Over is a bubbly, 38-year-old mom in the Denver suburbs. And she smiles a lot, especially when she talks about her kids. She remembers so many details of their big milestones, like her daughter Brie's first day of preschool. It started out great.
AMY OVER: It was a nice day. It was a nice morning. She had her cute, little backpack on and her hair perfect and in little bows.
MINOR: Brie led the way up the sidewalk to the school - her parents a few steps behind. And then it was time for Brie to go inside.
OVER: Once I actually left her, I was just like, oh, oh, my God - like, just this crippling fear inside of me.
MINOR: She felt like the walls were closing in. It was a panic attack.
OVER: Those started that day and stayed with me for a long time. It was a really dark time.
MINOR: Many Columbine survivors, not just Amy, are now raising families. And what happened on April 20, 1999, when 14 students, including the two shooters and a teacher, died - that's still part of their lives. Back then, Amy was about to graduate from high school. That morning, her coach told her she'd gotten a basketball scholarship.
OVER: I was like, I'm going to go play basketball. And everything's great. And then I go down to lunch. And that's when I heard the first gunshots.
MINOR: She dove under a table, then ran out of the building. And she made it home but had a hard time recovering. Her anxiety kept her away from people. It made her physically ill.
OVER: I was a hot mess, literally a mess.
MINOR: And then she met her husband, Curtis.
OVER: And he kind of swooped me up and took care of me. And he is my rock.
MINOR: Over time, Amy learned to work through her anxieties. She went to therapy and took up kickboxing. But one question always hung over her head. When should she talk about Columbine with her daughter? Brie is a perceptive kid. She's 13 now.
BRIE: I've always been curious. And I asked her, like, what happened?
MINOR: Amy wouldn't say much. She didn't want to spoil Brie's innocence. Then a few years ago, on the anniversary of the shooting, Brie told her mom she wanted to go with her to visit the school and the nearby memorial site. So they walked the halls together. Amy showed Brie where she heard the first gunshots, where she hid under a table. And then they visited the memorial, a stone plaza with quotes from teachers and students.
OVER: And she got to see how beautiful it was and how peaceful. And she just read all of the quotes and kind of took everything in.
MINOR: Brie says this experience was a lot for her to process. But in the moment, she was only thinking about her mom.
BRIE: I could tell that she was struggling. And I just gave her a hug because I didn't know how to support her.
MINOR: Brie was uncertain. But Amy says the hug was a huge lift.
OVER: It's like sharing it with my best friend or something - that I finally was able to kind of take a deep breath. And finally, she knows.
MINOR: Amy says she doesn't have panic attacks anymore. And watching her daughter grow up is a big part of that. When Brie's not dancing or doing homework, she's gotten involved with the movement to prevent gun violence.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Change.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) When do we want it?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Now.
MINOR: Brie and Amy went to the March for Our Lives demonstration in Denver last spring. The shooting in Parkland, Fla., and her own mother's experience at Columbine motivated Brie. She felt empowered but also overwhelmed.
BRIE: It's a feeling I've never felt before. It's just, like - from my gut, I was just drained.
MINOR: Amy felt pride watching her daughter that day.
OVER: She's so sympathetic and empathetic to others. And watching her was just powerful.
MINOR: But then Brie asked her mom a painful question.
OVER: Is this going to happen to me? You know, as a - you just say, no. You know, the chances of that are really slim. But she has that in the back of her mind, you know, that - what if this could happen to me?
MINOR: It's a question Amy Over thinks about a lot. And it's one that's been on the minds of many parents ever since Columbine. For NPR News, I'm Nathaniel Minor in Denver.
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