Friday, September 29, 2006

Echoes of Columbine

Seven years ago, I was reporting from Clement Park, the Littleton park adjacent to Columbine High School. Anyone who covered Columbine will tell you it left searing memories – not just on those involved – but on legions of seasoned journalists who rushed to cover the story. At the time, I was a 17-year-old cub reporter filing stories for stations across the country. The impact was three-fold…a national-level crisis was unfolding in the state I love most. A sanctuary of learning, where safety should never be compromised was now marred with bodies, bombs and pools of blood; textbooks in the school library – tools for learning, were stained with cerebral fluid. The pain seemed personal. I was reporting on a massacre of people my age, my peers.

On Wednesday, a tidal wave of Columbine memories flooded audiences across the nation as gunman Duane Morrison took students at Platte Canyon High School hostage making Colorado one of only two states to be the scene of two school shootings.

Coincidentally, moments before I learned I would anchor KOMU’s national report for the first time, I got word from a colleague on the unfolding scene in the tiny mountain town of Bailey. I had spent a decent amount of time there too during both the massive Hayman and Hi Meadow wildfires. I immediately tuned in to Denver stations, listening and watching many of the same reporters from Columbine. My stomach was put in a knot. The only reassuring fact was the number of students inside the school was low, and several hostages had been released. This country has become accustomed to students killing classmates. This time it was not a student though. Morrison was 53-years-old, a drifter who a former neighbor says was gruff and customarily aloof.


The same haunting question asked throughout Columbine is being posed once again: why? Who was Duane Morrison and what were his motivations? Morrison had a criminal history, but only for minor offenses. Those who knew him say they never expected this. What compels a grown man to perpetrate such a crime? Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener thinks he may have an answer. The sheriff says Morrison left a suicide note. Wegener has yet to elaborate on what it says. Like Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Morrison may have addressed his motivations. Sadly, in the end, he had to address his emotions not only with words, but weapons.

***There are more blog entries to come on this topic. They have been delayed until now due to other stories Skamenca is working.***


starviego said...

Do you remember what time you arrived at Columbine on 4-20-99?

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