So I haven't created any posts yet, here is my first one! It's way long so here we go...
Over this past weekend I took a trip to Colorado to take a photography class up in Rocky Mountain national park, which was incredible. Due to my flight schedule, I needed to stay in Denver an extra night and I drove out to visit Columbine. My thoughts on the experience, in no particular order:
*Clement Park is huge and beautiful. It has an incredible view of the mountains (being from the Midwest, that view never gets old to me). The park was much bigger than I expected it to be--while I was there, there were several softball and soccer games going on, lots of picnicking families, and, because it was a windy day, plenty of kite-flyers. There was also a crop of teenage skateboarders in the high school parking lot. It was truly a peaceful and idyllic place, the kind of place families would want to live. One of my first thoughts was that this is what people think of when they think of the American Dream, and it makes it even more frightening that someone would want to destroy it.
*Along those lines, Columbine High School itself was smaller than I thought it would be. In photos and news footage, I think it looks taller and more sprawling than it really is. The cafeteria and former library especially--they really are just right there curving into the parking lot, which also didn't feel very big. Gives you a sense of just how close everyone in that library must have been to each other. The school sits right smack in a neighborhood. Being there, I got the same feeling that I had when I visited Ground Zero in Manhattan a few years ago--the absolute terror and chaos for the people who were there that day must have been indescribable. Due to the acoustics of the park, I was able to hear crowd noise from the softball games on the other side of the school. The sound of gunshots and bombs must have echoed loudly in the surrounding area. I didn't take any photos of the school itself, because doing so felt like kind of an a-hole move--it's not a tourist site.
*The memorial is peaceful and sad. Years ago, I visited the former Dachau concentration camp in Germany. Again, same feeling--an incredible sadness made somewhat more poignant and bearable by the beauty and art of the memorial that was created out of awfulness. I am not a "crier" and I did not expect to cry, but found that I did choke up when I read Isaiah Shoels's memorial note written by his family. He is one victim I haven't learned much about, and it was truly heartbreaking. Seeing all the names, I just couldn't grasp being that young, going to school, and just not coming back.
*Someone had left flowers, dried up at this point, inside the inner ring with yellow ribbons and a note saying "Forget me not, forget me never, until the sun has set forever." One was tied to the railing underneath Isaiah's note, one was under Corey's, and another was under Lauren's, but those plaques are shielded from the wind--it looked like the flowers had been there for a while, and the rest of the 13 probably had them placed there too at one point. Makes me wonder who put them there.
*Someone had created 3 crosses out of the wood chips and lined them up by one of the flower beds. I wondered if 1 was for the 13, 1 for Eric, and 1 for Dylan. That was my thought anyway.
*At the top of the memorial, the grass is clearly stamped down and doesn't grow in one long strip, I am guessing from the people who walked all over it when the crosses were there.
*Looking down toward the school and the athletic field, I spotted a middle-aged guy sitting on the bench, just staring at the school. I was quite a ways away, but he looked thoughtful and sad. Wonder what he was thinking.
I spent a long time there, and felt I could have stayed longer. It's the kind of place that makes you think about the enormity of the event in a new light. I am not really a superstitious person, and I don't exactly believe in "energy fields" or that kind of thing, but after thinking for a few days, one thought stands out after visiting Columbine: The world isn't "done" with Columbine yet. It's been 15 years, and the world has changed in many ways. But this wound still hurts. I didn't feel like I was visiting a historical site, or the memorial of something that happened a long time ago, like I did when visiting Pearl Harbor. This felt fresh and sad and lonely and answerless. Maybe it's my age--I was the same age as those kids when it happened, and I remember not only the event, but the climate of the teenage world at the time because it was my world too.
A few more thoughts on the surrounding area:
*The Jeffco area surrounding Columbine is really sprawling and, as it is not an incorporated city, feels kind of directionless with no town center. Just miles and miles of subdivisions and churches and strip malls. In a way, it is clearly a very nice area, probably great to raise a family. In another way, seen through another lens, it could definitely go "disturbia." I obviously didn't spend much time there, but from what I saw, there wasn't a lot in the way of unique culture. Just chain restaurants and stores, everything looking very similar, not very independent. Even the street names repeat themselves over and over again. I imagine it would be an especially claustrophobic place for a teenager who didn't fit in.
*I drove by Eric's house, but didn't get a great look, first because I didn't want to look like a creepo (I might have been pretending to talk on my cell phone while turning around the cul de sac…). Also, the people living there appeared to be having a get-together and there were a bunch of cars parked in the driveway and on the street. I didn't make it to Dylan's house, because I was so tired after waking up at 3:45 am to take pictures of the sunrise 2 days in a row and his house is a ways out of town--it was starting to get dark and I didn't think I should be driving around anymore on such low sleep. Plus, I know you can't really see it from the road anyway.
*The neighborhoods near the high school look pretty different than what I had seen in the old videos. Trees grow and get a lot leafier over the course of 15 years--I think that is another reason the high school looks smaller now than in the news footage.
I think that about covers it. I am really glad I was able to make the trip, and I actually hope I can go back and visit the memorial again sometime. Overwhelmingly, seeing the actual site of the massacre brought home just how terrifying and tragic that day must have been for the community. Even the air felt different--you can just tell the pain in still very real there for some people.
Also, I took a few photos but I am not sure if I'm able to add them to this post, maybe someone can let me know on that? Thanks again for reading my ramble.