I was in the cafeteria at school, waiting in line to buy my piece of pizza. It was free cookie day, and I was pumped because they made great soft chocolate chip cookies. I had my money out when people started yelling to get down. I heard pops and then teachers and janitors were running around while kids got under tables. I ducked behind a wall and tucked my two dollars in my back pocket. No one was takin my money! I figured that whatever was going on was just a senior prank. It was late April after all.
Suddenly there was a wave of kids running to the stairs away from the windows. No one really knew what was happening, but whatever it was we weren't going to stick around. There was a railing, and some kids were going around and others were jumping over the railing. I remember watching this swarm of people and being overwhelmed and confused. The other kids I was around ran down a hall, crouched down, and waited; thankfully the choir teacher unlocked the back door to the auditorium. Without thinking, we ran through the auditorium, jumped off the stage, ran up the stairs, ran through the school, left the building, climbed over a tall chain link fence, and ran across the big park next to the school. This happened very fast, and I don't know who was leading but everyone was following. I don't even remember running through the school. Also, I know there was a fence and I remember being helped over it, but I have no idea where it was. It's strange what you remember and what you don't. Thankfully, I was very lucky and got out of the school fast, and I was safe. I heard gun shots, but I never saw the shooters and didn't see anyone who was shot.
Here are a few other random things I remember:
1. I could tell you exactly what I was wearing that day. I think I'll always remember that but I'm really not sure why.
2. The teachers (I'm actually not sure if they were teachers, but they were adults, and I don't think they were police) kept moving us farther away from the school. We were told to walk along a main street until we got to the public library (not to be confused with the school library) and then they didn't make us go any farther.
3. I sat on the grass in front of the library and told a friend that they were going to shoot up a couple of windows and get caught. I actually said it won't even make the front page of the news. Woah. Not so much.
4. I sat in the staff room of the public library for awhile with some other kids and had no clue what was going on.
5. I really didn't have a clue of how bad it was until one boy's mom came into that staff room crying and so happy to see him. I walked to the front of the library because I figured maybe my parents were looking for me. I saw one of my youth group leaders first, and he was so happy to see me. The place was swarming with frantic parents at that point.
6. I really didn't have a clue of how bad it was until my parents found me and my dad cried.
7. I remember seeing one of my good friend's mom sobbing in the library because she didn't know where her daughter was. Thankfully she was ok, but she was stuck in the school for awhile. Looking back, if your kid was trapped in the school, you had no idea if he/she was ok, hurt, or dead. This was before everyone had a cell phone. Those poor parents.
8. My mom had just had serious neck surgery and wasn't supposed to drive because she couldn't turn her head. This didn't stop her from driving to find me once she heard what happened. When my parents finally found me, they had two cars parked on that main road. My dad told me to drive my mom, and I said I couldn't because my learner's permit was in my locker. My mom looked at me and said, "I think the police are occupied right now." Still pretty naive of me.
9. The shooting started a little after 11 am, and I was home for the four o'clock news.
10. I later found out that there were two propane bombs about 10 feet from where I was standing (and where I was going to be eating my lunch). God was watching over us that day because so many more people would have died had those gone off according to their plan.
11. The day before we ate lunch outside. Thank God we didn't on the 20th.
12. It felt like we had two months off of school, but I think it was a couple of weeks, and then we went to our rival school for the last month or so of school. We had school from noon-6pm and everyone was a little freaked.
13. The community and world was very supportive and we appreciated everything. Still do.
To say that this has made a profound impact on my life would be an understatement. I am Mrs. personal safety. I hate guns--won't look at them or touch them, and I definitely don't want to hear them. When I get nervous, I look for a place to run. I am not ok in a building with one exit. Sometimes I run worst-case scenarios in my head about what would happen if a shooter walked in the room. My best friend was trapped in a science room for hours; when she gets scared, she looks for a place to hide. This amazes me. I had to ran during the shooting so I will always run. She had to hide during the shooting so she will always hide. She is a teacher now, and I'm so proud of her.
I'm sure that anyone who is in a shooting or something similar will be impacted greatly from the experience. I feel that since it happened when I was 15, prime developing years, it greatly changed me. My innocence definitely was stolen, but I least I kept my life. Seeing the news stories and pictures on the anniversaries makes me so sad (and mad). We were so young and little. Even Eric and Dylan were just kids. It's sad that they had so much hatred in their hearts that they felt the need to terrorize and kill. My feelings change every year, and this year I'm sad. I'm sad that we had to go through that, I'm sad that my schoolmates died, I'm sad that lives were changed. Last year I was really freaked out and really mad, so the feelings always change.
So today, April 20th, hug your kids. Hug your parents. Hug your spouse and hug your friends. Hug strangers. You never know when something could happen. I know better than most how bad things can happen in good places when you least expect it. And on a final note, if you're angry, sad, depressed, or having a bad day, please don't take a gun to a public place to try and take people out with you. It destroys lives. Amen.