Home / US / Twenty years later, survivors from Columbine Parkland students say, "We're sorry we could not stop it."

Twenty years later, survivors from Columbine Parkland students say, "We're sorry we could not stop it."



Two massacres at high school, two communities changed forever.

Two fateful days, two decades apart. Tragic bookends in American history.

In total, 30 people lost their lives: 13 in Colorado in 1999, 17 in Florida in 2018.

Hundreds of people survived the shooting. Most escaped the bullets. Nevertheless, they carry invisible scars.

Every loud sound can shake the day: sirens sound, fire alarms ring, a car backfires. Time has done little to cure the triggers.

Recently, three suicides – two Parkland survivors and the father of a six-year-old girl killed in a mass school shot in Sandy Hook, Connecticut – are only reinforcing the fight.

  How an art museum near Marjory Stoneman Douglas became a center of healing for a traumatized community

The Saturday marks 20 years since the massacre at Columbine High School near Denver. Filming at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School north of Miami is 14 months fresh. What would survivors of these two tragedies have to teach each other?

Four from Columbine agreed to travel to Parkland to meet with four of their colleagues and speak with CNN's Brooke Baldwin at the nearby Coral Springs Museum of Art.

All eight noticed the exits before they sat down – and saw which would trigger an alarm. Seven of the eight have sought professional spiritual help.

Together, they hoped to help and bring light to each other through their shared dark experiences.

"Trauma does not stop when bullets cease"

Two of Columbine's Four Survivors They said they had suicidal thoughts since kidnapping 12 students and one teacher on April 20, 1999 were.

Zach Cartaya had a "plan to end him" four years ago when he was 33 years old, spending the weekend after a domestic dispute in jail. He intended to drive into the mountains, attach a hose to the exhaust pipe of his car and get himself killed by the carbon monoxide. There would be no farewell letter. No desperate messages to friends. Nothing.

"I wanted to go dumb," he says. "I just wanted to leave the world as quietly as I came in."

His mother's intuition saved his life.

"My mother literally caught me on the way to the door," he says. "Something in her knew something was wrong."

He studied an intensive outpatient program for three months, met with psychiatrists and counselors day and night, and talked to others in group therapy. In the following months, he continued various therapies and plunged into The Rebels Project, a self-help group founded by Columbine survivors.

Today he shares his experiences with Parkland's Demitri Hoth: "You have to go into the world and go your own way and it's really difficult and it's really insulating and really lonely."

"When we freak out, have a panic attack, or just have a bad mood, we can hide them really well, because we want to be normal."

o'clock: They were both seniors when the shots were fired

Coni Sanders was not a high school student, but she was no less enthusiastic about what happened. Her father, Dave Sanders, was a teacher and trainer in Columbine.

Her father spent 24 years coaching, girls basketball and softball. He had three daughters and his last words were: "Tell my girls that I love them". His family thinks he's talking not just about his daughters, but about all the girls he's ever trained.

After the massacre, Coni says she did not say she committed suicide if anyone had asked. But one night, she says, she took too many sleeping pills and thought, "It would feel good when it could all be over and I could be with him."

It is important for parkland students to say they know "it's OK not to be OK."

"This trauma," she says, "does not stop when the bullets stop."

For Parkland survivors, honesty is a joke here. A realization that the problems they face are continuing.

"It scares me to know that this will be forever for my whole life," says Sari Kaufman, who graduated on February 14, 2018, the second year when 14 students and three collaborators were killed by Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Mei-Ling Ho-Shing, now a senior, adds, "The fact that it's been 19 years, and you're still going through it. Wow!"

Demitri just wants to know, "is it getting better?"

"It's inevitable"

It does, but it's a marathon. That's what the Columbine Principal told the survivors the day after the shooting, and it's a mantra they carry with them today.

Amy Over was a senior citizen in 1999. She tells the parkland students that there will be "really dark days". in the coming years, but you will learn coping skills to cope with the pain. Be faithful.

The survivors in Florida, they say and the others from Columbine, have already inspired millions of people around the world with their activism – without fear of confronting lawmakers with the need to change arms laws.

"You will find out what works for you and what does not work for you," she says.

  Columbine's students begin a campaign to exchange images of their deaths when they are killed in rifle violence

The Brandon withdrawal was a friend of Sydney Aiello, whose suicide took place last month shook Parkland again. They met in the student government. In their last year, the two APs shared environmental science. The teacher used the pupils alphabetically. "Her last name was Aiello, and my name is Deduction, so we were always side by side," he says.

It's more important than ever to seek help and stay in touch with every survivor: "Survive mass shooting is yours, it's inevitable."

Mei-Ling knew Calvin Desir, a 16-year-old parkland Student who died at the end of March. They were not close friends, but he once gave her an award for her activism.

"It's painful," she says. "I know friends who graduated after his suicide and cried me."

"They just wanted to come home because they feel so far away."

Mei-Ling was on the second floor of the building, where the shootings of Marjory Stoneman Douglas unfolded. She could smell the cannon smoke and hear the cries of classmates. When the police entered their classroom, their weapons were drawn. As an African American, Mei-Ling says, "It was a trauma over the trauma."

Friends call it "Trauma Olympiad". She says: an unofficial pecking order, who may mourn more, depending on where you were at school, if you were shot, if you knew someone who died.

Coni, who was 24 years old when she lost her father, says there is a similar ranking among the survivors of Columbine.

She says she hears things like, "Well, you have not lost a child."

"But I lost my father," she says in tears. "It's like spending a lot of time comparing our grief and comparing our trauma, and there's no comparison."

Columbine students urge their younger peers to seek help. Pronounce. Do not ignore your feelings.

"You're going to really go through dark times," says Amy Brandon as they sit together. "Times when you do not believe you can take another step forward, but you learn coping skills and find out," I need to get help. "For me I had to hit something." [194559002] o'clock: She had to start physically fighting to get through her anger.

"Be selfish," says Laura Farber, who led the documentary "We Are Columbine" Saturday's two decade mark.

"For me, predictability is what I need in my life, because I expected to have lunch on the 20th, and my whole world changed."

Amy says, "We have this beautiful club that in the first place, nobody wanted to be a part, but it has become part of my identity, I'm proud of myself, I'm proud of where I'm going."

"We are not a club anymore, "she says. This is a movement.

She looks at Demitri, Mei-Ling, Sari and Brandon and tells them, "You are my people. "

" Dad would be so proud "

If there is a phrase that they all hate, then it is" the new normal. "

It is It's not normal for schools to be blown up – they lose classmates, teachers, coaches, and parents.

America You should never be so pleased with such a carnage.

"It's never going to be normal," Coni says Mei-Ling.

Mei-Ling trusts the triggers – as they can come at any time – Mei -Ling has always been an activist and spoke again out of racism for Black Lives Matter, which has become even more active over the last year, protests against violence against guns, advocates for legislative action, and shares her story of survival with anyone who will listen.

She quips that she sometimes feels like the "angry black girl."

"But I'm glad to find that voice, "says Mei-Ling. I know that I need not be anyone but me. "

Coni says the world needs her. "You do not have to apologize for being the angry black lady," she says. "My father would be so proud."

Watching: See what brought these survivors to tears

Coni continues, "I almost feel like this 20th anniversary is like the baton really tired handed So we say: "We are sorry that we could not stop it. We are sorry that we could do no more and yet so thankful for all of you. "

The two hug each other and hold on tight. When they retire, Coni lures herself and says, "I'm not done yet, I'm not done yet."

They hug each other a bit longer.

She Changes

Amy Over had a scholarship to play basketball in college, but the day Coni lost her father, Amy lost her coach. Her mentor who brought her a love for the game.

Coach Sanders was more heroic that day than if he had sneaked up the sideline and led the rebels to victory: he was called to have saved the lives of 100 Columbine students, including Zach and Amy. He was a lunch monitor that day and helped guide the students out of the doors. Then he ran up the stairs and told the students to hide before he was shot in the back.

Amy gave up her dream of a college ball. The pain was too big. Years later, at 26, she was still fighting. Her mother asked her, "Why are not you over yet?"

She began kickboxing to channel her anger: "I had to get rid of my anger and started fighting in the ring."

Brandon Duck actively sought the advice of Columbine students after surviving Parkland. He set up a pen pal program to connect survivors of both tragedies, giving Parkland students guidance on how to deal with them.

  Recent student deaths in Parkland are a wake up call.

He created a list of about 130 Columbian survivors who participated in the contest, and brought their names among classmates in need of help. Brandon stays in touch with them weekly via Facebook Messenger. Today he met someone from Columbine for the first time.

"They are there for me," he says, "and it really helps."

The recent suicides have made his mission more urgent. "I want more people to know that there are survivors who are ready and able to help," says Brandon.

Now studying at the University of Florida, he is leaving the assembly with a new meaning. Turn the worst day of his life into a battle cry to change the world for the better.

Education in America after Columbine

Columbine survivors are now parents. Their children, like millions of others, are now undergoing active shooting exercises.

"The fact that the Columbine generation has to go through this," says Zach, "is offensive to me."

Coni not I want her kids to join the exercises first. They knew how their father died and she feared it would continue to traumatize her. Another parent told her that it could jeopardize the life of classmates when a shooter enters the school and their children do not know what to do.

In her first exercise, her daughters panicked: "It was really sad that they experienced a vicarious trauma because of their grandfather," she said. During a lockdown, she says, a college student told classmates, "Would not it be cool if there was a Columbine here so we could be on TV?"

"I just liked that," says Coni.

The four Parkland students were born to Columbine, but knew about the shootings before they went to school. Unlike the Columbine students who finished the year at another school in a neighboring town, Parkland survivors had to return to the scene weeks later.

They sat in desks. They roamed the halls. The building where students were killed was closed off.

It seemed to them that they had to go on as if everything was normal.

Brandon and Demitri were seniors. The change to college in the following months was lonely. When they told new classmates where they went to high school, they were shocked with a shock, followed by awkward silence.

Sari and Mei-Ling stay in Parkland. They are proud of their community. Both sports "MSD Strong" T-shirts.

  Laura Farber (left) and Sari Kaufman.

Parkland students became synonymous with activism and marched on to the State Capitol in Tallahassee and the steps of the US Capitol in Washington.

But under activism remain layers of agony.

"We must realize that whoever was on campus that day, no matter where you were, might not be as bad as other people, but you still had a really serious event," says Sari.

The school has a wellness center that offers counseling, but Mei-Ling says most students avoid it for fear of weakness.

"If you have a breakdown or are afraid," she says, "you have to physically raise your hand and say," Can I go to the wellness center? "

Her worst day since the shootout was her first drill shooter, administrators warned the students that this would happen, but they did not soothe their nerves.

Here's how she described the drill:

"They get sweaty , They get tired. Your body feels weak I just do not want to be there. Then your brain goes right to the point: you hear shots in your head. They hear the sirens. You hear the ambulance.

You hear everything you never want to hear again. [19659002

Save lives

The Columbine survivors have spent their lives in a fish bowl, and the media blinding seems to get brighter every year.

They had no cell phones 20 years ago, the police were not trained enough to attack a high school, and survivors had no one to turn to.

They would never have thought, the terror that inflicted on them would multiply – over the next two decades, the nation would see one mass shooting at a time.

The tentacles of her trauma and the cascade of other crises are far reaching.

Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University and one of the leading suicide experts in the US participated in the conversation at the Coral Springs Museum.

She says it's especially important that Elter teachers, coaches and friends ask the survivors direct questions about suicidal thoughts.

"If a child, a parent, or anyone suffers," she says, "they really want help, and they just do not have the will to come to you, we've learned that direct inquiry saves lives." [19659002] By listening to the discussion, she says, it is clear that all eight participants have experienced different levels of guilt of the survivors. These symptoms can occur within weeks or over years.

  Parkland suicide bombings reveal long-term psychological effects of mass shootings

understand each other and understand that part The trauma Olympiad is the stigma and misunderstanding of mental health problems, depression and trauma, "she says." People are suffering in silence. "

It is imperative that they be here as a community for healing

Parkland students are resilient and inspiring. They have opposed politicians who have told them that they are too young to understand how the world works.

Demitri says he loves being trolled because it motivates him to continue to fight for change.

Sari hopes to one day become a US Senator. She says it's important to learn from the Columbine survivors how to deal with it, noting that "it's not just about leaving."

Brandon says it's invaluable to meet his colleagues from the past. "You could see the passion in her eyes."

Demitri wants to know again, if it gets better with time.

"It's getting better," Amy tells him. "But it's a difficult question."

The pain subsides, she explains, but it never goes away.

Zach says it's important to travel from Colorado to "tell you face to face how proud I am of you."

"I want you to become more aware of the issues," he says, "so you do not make the same mistakes as me."

The marathon is getting faster.

CNN's Randi Furman, Anisa Husain, Marc Halualani, Channon Hodge, Nick Scott, Tawanda Scott, Dominic Swann, and Madeleine Stix all contributed to the report.


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