April 20, 2000
Betty Ann Bowser returns to Littleton, Colorado a year after the shooting at Columbine High School.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: At 11:21 today, Colorado Governor, Bill Owens asked for a moment of silence from the steps of the state capitol.
GOV. BILL OWENS: Now please join me as we each pray in our own way for those who suffered from the tragedy at Columbine.…
|Remembering the victims|
ANN BOWSER: It was one year to the minute after two suburban high school
students stunned the country by killing 12 students, a teacher, and then
themselves in a shooting rampage at Columbine High School.
GOV. BILL OWENS: The community of Littleton and the state of Colorado have spent the last year dealing with a tragedy of horrible proportions, but we came through that tragedy with a stronger sense of community and with the resolve to ensure that the deaths of the victims will not be in vain.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Later today, another memorial -- this one at the park that borders the school. Here students, families, school officials and neighbors gathered.
FRANK DeANGELIS: We will never forget the 13 innocent victims who lost their lives a year ago today. While they are no longer with us physically, their spirits remain strong. Our family members who were murdered will always be remembered and will be greatly missed, and our love for them will last for a lifetime, and the memory of their lives will provide the hope for our future.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Each victim's name was read aloud.
NAMES BEING READ: (Bell Ringing) Daniel Mauser…Rachel Scott.
|Picking up the pieces|
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Columbine senior Sarah Bay attended the memorial. Bay was good friends with Rachel Scott, who was murdered that day. They had attended the prom together just days before the assault.
SARAH BAY: One year means trying to pick up the pieces of - you know - my shattered, sheltered existence and trying to move on, although I know I'll never have that sheltered feeling again, you know, that little bubble of security that everybody has, I think, when they're my age, are supposed to have when they're my age, is gone.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The tragedy set off national soul searching over the way America is raising its children. Mark Obmascik, lead writer for the Denver Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Columbine, says the appetite to understand what happened that day was universal.
MARK OBMASCIK: The thing that made Columbine touch so many people was that it played to so many universal fears. Everyone's been to high school, everybody's been afraid at some point in high school, everyone's been worried that they didn't quite fit in, so where do we go from now, from there?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Within months a flurry of bills hit the Colorado legislature. Dozens of gun bills were introduced; all were defeated except those supported by the NRA. State politicians tried to push another bill that required schools to post the Ten Commandments, but that too was defeated.
MARK OBMASCIK: Right after Columbine happened, everybody seemed to have an answer. Some people thought the problem was guns. Some people thought it was violent videos. Some people thought there needed to be more religion in schools. But in hindsight, a year later, after Columbine, nothing's really changed. And that's really a very difficult part of the story, because we've got these shattered lives but no real public policy fixes yet, and I think part of the frustration is that society as a whole can't decide.
|Breaking the cycle of violence|
TOM MAUSER: Daniel here was about nine years old.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Tom Mauser, father of slain Columbine student Daniel Mauser, made his decision to try and change what he calls one piece of the puzzle of Columbine: gun control. For Mauser, the failure to pass stricter gun control laws has been a huge disappointment -- so much so that in January he took a leave from his job at the Colorado Department of Transportation to become a lobbyist for gun control. His son Daniel, who was murdered in the school library, was a straight A student, on the debate team, and loved discussing controversial issues.
TOM MAUSER: Two weeks before the massacre at Columbine he said to me at the dinner table one night, "Dad, did you know there were loopholes in the Brady Bill?" And then, of course, it was a real shock, then, when he was murdered and the guns that were used were purchased at a gun show.
TOM MAUSER: A few short months after the Columbine tragedy my wife cleared out Daniel's closet. One of the things that I kept that day - these shoes. And I've kept them and I've worn them since that time. They're my size. And they mean a lot to me too, because I feel that I move forward in this debate, this great debate we have over gun violence, in Daniel's shoes, and imagining myself as Daniel preparing for a debate class.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Mauser is leading a bipartisan gun control organization called SAFE, Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic. The group hopes to pass a ballot initiative in Colorado that will require background checks for anyone buying a firearm at gun shows.
TOM MAUSER: Clearly, people are looking at Colorado. They see this as ground zero. They're looking and they're saying, "okay, what is Colorado going to do after what it encountered here? What are they going to do?" So we're going to do something. I think we're going to show the nation.
(Cheers and applause)
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Last week, Mauser's group drew national attention when President Clinton came to one of their rallies.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I came here first to say I support what you're doing. And in spite of all the attempts to put roadblocks in your way, you must not be deterred. (Applause)
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Parent Darrell Scott, father of slain Columbine student Rachel Scott, has taken a different path. He too left his job as a sales manager for a food company, not to change laws, but to change hearts.
DARRELL SCOTT: The problem with gun control is that it doesn't stop criminals, and Eric and Dylan would have done what they were going to do regardless. In fact, their weapons of choice were propane tanks. And if they had been successful, you know, I wonder if the politicians would have postured themselves around getting rid of barbecue grills or propane tanks. And I know that sounds facetious; I don't think they would have. I think it was just an easy scapegoat to look at guns. But it's two young people who killed my daughter, not just the weapons they used. And until we deal with our youths' hearts, we're not going to see change, I don't think, in this country.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Scott has written a book called "Rachel's Tears," and produced a video. He tours the country talking about Columbine and spirituality. He has no plans to return to his former career.
DARRELL SCOTT: I challenge young people to not allow a legislation to dictate to their conscience, their freedom to worship God, and to be aware of the spiritual side that's there in their lives - because in this country we have shut out all spiritual influence in our schools.
|A community seeking closure|
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The school's challenge has been to alleviate any reminders of one year ago.
RICK KAUFMAN, Jefferson County Schools: We wanted to change the look and feel, so that when students were coming back to school, it was not traumatic for them to always go to that place that they may have been in, that they escaped.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The library -- where many of the murders took place -- has been sealed off. An outdoor area where students ran around a murdered student was remodeled, and many changes were made to ensure student safety inside the building. But Columbine's principal, Frank DeAngelis, says the real change must ultimately come from what's being taught.
FRANK DeANGELIS: After the tragedy occurred, we received a lot of suggestions on how we could make Columbine a safer place. And I'm not sure if metal detectors, I'm not sure if surveillance cameras, I'm not sure if security gates would ever stop that from happening. But I think the key to stopping another tragedy like this is educating our students. We need to teach students and children about life, and the value of life. We need to teach students about respect for one another. We need to teach them about tolerance, and that's education.
SARAH BAY: This is our 1998-1999 school yearbook, and this is the picture of the debate team here and that Dan and Rachel were a part of …
BETTY ANN BOWSER: As for Sarah Bay, who was on the debate team with both Daniel Mauser and Rachel Scott, she says the culture at Columbine has changed. Bay says classes now highlight diversity and tolerance, and she says special attention is given to a student's emotional needs.
SARAH BAY: Even if you're experiencing some difference in grief, or even experiencing hostility, people are much more willing, at least in our school, to go seek help than they were before. Before, they would be like, "I don't know about this; I don't know about psychologists or psychiatrists, and I don't know what they're going to do to me, or you know, how I should react to them." But now, they understand that the sooner you get help, the better you'll be. Had Dylan and Eric sought help, maybe this wouldn't have happened, and so they understand that.
SPOKESMAN: Mr. Frank DeAngelis. (applause)
BETTY ANN BOWSER: While today's message at the memorials was strength and healing, Principal DeAngelis cautioned against expecting too much.
FRANK DeANGELIS: What worries me is I really believe that there are people out there in the community that feel, come April 21st, the day after the one-year anniversary, there's going to be closure and everyone's going to be fine. But I think if people believe that, that's a false hope. The scars that we have received as a result of this tragedy will be with us for a lifetime.
CHOIR SINGING: We are Columbine --
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Columbine anniversary was marked not only in ceremony but also in the courts. Just ahead of the statute of limitations, 15 families filed lawsuits against the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. The Department itself promised to release a much-delayed report about the shootings later this spring.