Columbine Wounds Heal But Leave Scars Drew Lagerborg was a junior at Columbine High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting spree that killed 12 classmates and a teacher. Ten years later, Lagerborg and his parents can share words of hope.
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Columbine Wounds Heal But Leave Scars

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Columbine Wounds Heal But Leave Scars

Columbine Wounds Heal But Leave Scars

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of a terrible shooting rampage by students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. They killed 12 of their fellow classmates and a teacher, injured 23 people and then took their own lives.

I traveled to Littleton shortly after that tragedy in 1999, and I met with the Lagerborg family. Drew Lagerborg was a junior then. He remembered hearing a huge explosion and thought there'd been an accident in the chemistry lab.

Mr. DREW LAGERBORG: At first I thought it was like a live experiment gone wrong, you know, by one of the teachers. And then I thought it might have been a senior prank. So some people ran out into the hall, and they ran back in 'cause they were, like, a gunman's out in the hall.

WERTHEIMER: We checked in on Drew and his parents, Mary Beth and Alex a year later, at that time, in an essay on NPR. Mary Beth talked about seeing bumper stickers in town that said, We Are All Columbine. They summed up the sense of community, she felt, but also the stigma.

Ms. MARY BETH LAGERBORG: I get tired of wearing this emotional tattoo of a columbine, the flower that haunts me wherever I turn.

WERTHEIMER: But Mary Beth Lagerborg also had words of hope.

Ms. LAGERBORG: There's a photograph by John Fielder that became popular soon after the shootings - a single fragile columbine flower grows through a crack in rugged granite. It's called "The Flower that Shattered the Stone." I think of this image when the burden of being Columbine is too heavy to bear. I pray my son will do the same, because it reminds me that good is stronger than evil, and we have hope.

WERTHEIMER: Mary Beth Lagerborg joins us now from the studios of KCFR in Denver. It's very nice to talk to you again, Mary Beth.

Ms. LAGERBORG: Oh, it's good to talk to you too, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Also with you, your husband, Alex. Alex, hello.

Mr. ALEX LAGERBORG: We're delighted to be here, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: And Drew. Drew Lagerborg, thank you for speaking with us again.

Mr. D. LAGERBORG: Thank you, appreciate it.

WERTHEIMER: Now, let me start with Mary Beth and that image of the columbine pushing through the granite. How do you feel about that today?

Ms. LAGERBORG: I feel very strongly still about that image. You know, as I look back that day, there were 2,000 young people who sort of lost their innocence at one time. And they were exposed to horrendous evil, and at the same time they were exposed to phenomenal good. The love that people showed to one another was truly miraculous. And I would go with the flower through the granite.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Drew, you recorded an essay for us, as well, a year after the shootings. And you were just about to graduate from high school, and you were looking forward to college. So you were sort of thinking your way into the future.

(Soundbite of essay)

Mr. D. LAGERBORG: I'm going to a small campus. And I know because I'm from Columbine there'll be lots of questions. Some people will sincerely care, and for others I may just be a curiosity. I hope when I get there I can figure out how to react to those questions. I want to make a lot of new friends, and I want to have fun. What happened at my high school last year just makes me want to leave that much more. I can't wait to graduate and get on with the next chapter of my life.

WERTHEIMER: So, Drew, you ended going to Sterling College in Kansas and studying communications and theater. Did you feel that that move from the end of high school, the beginning of college, that you did move on? Were you able to move on then?

Mr. D. LAGERBORG: There's a piece of me that will always still remain on April 20th, 1999. Just, you know, it comes back in various ways. But I did believe I was able to step forward and move on. But there will always be, you know, pieces, and things and circumstances that just come back.

Ms. LAGERBORG: Linda, I remember when Drew was in college, he called us one time because a girl at his school had died in her dorm room of a severe asthma attack. And Drew said, mom, you'd think I'd get used to my friends dying. And I said, Drew, at 21, you're not supposed to get used to your friends dying.

WERTHEIMER: Alex Lagerborg, just remembering all this sort of shocking, horrible day, I remember you telling me that you were standing - you were at the Wal-Mart, and you passed the bank of television sets and saw your son's school on the television sets.

Mr. A. LAGERBORG: Right.

WERTHEIMER: And suddenly realized what was going on and abandoned your cart and ran.

Mr. A. LAGERBORG: You bet. Well, you know, another memorable thing for me during that day was - is that I was a, you know, a scoutmaster of our troupe at that time. And a mom came up to me and put her arms around me, and she said, what are they doing to our children? And another part of the story is the aftermath.

You know, the three months after, the six months after and what happened to people's lives during that time. I remember that Beth and I were having a difficult time just kind of relating. And we ended up in about eight months of counseling, just to kind of get back to normal again. So it was - there was a matrix of evil somehow that seemed to permeate things. It was hard to put our fingers on.

But I think on the other hand, I think as Beth related, that, you know, the columbine does grow through the stone. And I think there was some victory as far as relationships. One of my scouts held, you know, a service where everyone got together and prayed. And this has not been a scout that was particularly religious - families helping each other. There was a real awareness and real outreach to one another.

So, even though on the surface there looked to be some victory from the dark side, if you may, there was real light because people came together, and they really ministered and helped each other as they went forward.

WERTHEIMER: Is the town planning to commemorate the anniversary? And if they are, are you going?

Mr. D. LAGERBORG: They are going to have a memorial service on Monday. I'm definitely going to be there. I think it's just going to be great to see a lot of my fellow classmates I haven't seen in a while and be able to connect. And it's funny, but I haven't really held onto, you know, a lot of friends since high school. And I think it was just a chopping block kind of a thing where I just kind of wanted to put everything, you know, whether it'd be friends, high school, sports, everything in the past and move on. And even though it may not be a big thing, it'll be good to see old friends, see old faces, and heal and move on.

WERTHEIMER: Mary Beth, Alex and Drew Lagerborg. They joined us from the studios of KCFR in Denver. Thank you all very much.

Mr. A. LAGERBORG: Thank you, Linda.

Ms. LAGERBORG: Good to be with you, Linda.

Mr. D. LAGERBORG: Thank you.

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