Friday, April 18, 2014

Resurrection Tuesday

There's this nail in the tire of my van.  It's not a wimpy little common nail, either.  It's the giant, designed to stick in there for 20 years, roofing nail-type.

We haven't pulled it out yet, because - by some miracle of engineering - the very fact that it's in there so snugly is preventing the tire from going flat.  Once we pull it out, or once it wiggles its way into a large enough hole, whichever comes first, not only do we have to replace that single tire, but the other three as well.  {Conspiracy, I tell you!  Somebody alert the presses!}

Each and every time I get in my car, I check the front tire, just to be sure that a) the tire isn't flat and b) there hasn't been some kind of major melt down in car mechanics owing to this nail.  I'm pretty sure there's only a .00003% chance of this actually happening, but I'm reminded that I'm paranoid every time I hit a bump or go around a corner during our drive.  Because sitting on the side of the road with small children and/or hulking up and changing the van tire like some 'roided out prego body builder both seem like super fun ideas.

There is a lot of driving to do this weekend, too, since two important dates happen to coincide on the calendar this year: the first is Easter, which, incidentally happens to fall on the 15 year anniversary of the Columbine shootings.

It seems fitting, though.  "Coincidence" it may be, but somehow the fact that these two dates overlap is highly appropriate in my book.

Maybe not on the surface; Easter is supposed to be a day about family, togetherness and celebration.  On April 20th fifteen years ago, the world as I knew it was torn apart.

It was the firecrackers that alerted us that something was wrong.  I mean, really.  Who brings firecrackers to school?  But when we turned around to seek out the source of this lunch-time disturbance, it wasn't firecrackers.

It was paintball guns.  Because... that was the only explanation that made sense to our otherwise preoccupied teenage brains.  We certainly didn't go to a school where another explanation was immediately obvious.  Sure, we'd heard about school shootings in other places, but we didn't go to such a school.  Ours was safe, so the words SENIOR PRANK flashed through our minds, even as our eyes began to provide evidence otherwise.  Besides, the completely expressionless faces I watched point and fire those guns at random had to mean they weren't out to harm anyone.  After all, they were letting fire rain down upon their fellow students; surely that would evoke emotion?

Two dropped.  Hard.  I'd come to know later it was actually three, but the third one was out of my field of vision.  At least two more were already down, victims of the popping noises we'd heard initially.  But it was watching those two fall to the ground that snapped me out of my delusion: this was no senior prank.

Standing so close, we concealed ourselves by crouching behind the tire of a car.  Interestingly enough, in my mind as I recall it all these years later, the car was white.  Looking at the photo now, I see that must not have been the case.  The things I do remember are etched forever in my memory: watching a friend get shot.  Hearing the sickening thud as her thin body was impacted.  Seeing her crumple and fall.  The smoke from a pipe bomb which landed so close to me I could have thrown it back.  The explosion that somehow, miraculously, didn't touch me.  The boy who ran, clutching his bloody leg.  And the bodies.  The ones I knew lay motionless outside, even though I didn't know to whom they belonged.  The ones I feared were mounting inside the school. The ones I ran desperately, hopelessly to try and protect as soon as the shooters moved inside.

Help them was all I could think.  It filled my whole being and spurred me on.  It seems silly now to look back and remember how strongly I felt that it rested with me to sound the alarm, to call the police and get help as soon as possible.  We may not have had cell phones, but there were many phones in the school, much more easily accessed than by me sprinting half-crazed across the football field, jumping a fence and practically breaking into neighborhood houses in my desperate attempt to get!them!help! already.  It was pretty naive, but it was the only thought that filled my brain.

When I finally got to a phone, 9-1-1 was busy.  Oh the significance.

That sign read "Good Luck Band" for months.  We were supposed to be going somewhere - Kansas City? - for a competition that weekend.  We didn't exactly make it.

How much we were in the dark as we watched helplessly while the events at our school unfolded on TV.  The rumors.  The reports.  And finally - though if I recall correctly, it wasn't until a full 24 hours later - the names.

Each fell sickeningly on our hearts, every name a memory and a blow.

Isaiah.  I'd talked to him in the hall just that morning.

Cassie.  Who burned brightly with her love of God.  I'd never hear her laugh at youth group again.

Steven.  From science class.

Corey.  My friend's brother.

KellyKyleJohn. Daniel. LaurenMatt.

Coach Sanders.  Who didn't know him?

Someone's daughter.  Someone's son.  Someone's brother or sister or friend.  Someone's father.  Blow, blow, blow.

And finally, Rachel. Dan. I would come to find out that those belonged to two of the crumpled bodies we'd left behind.  Rachel who was kind to everyone.  Who was brave and sweet and loved God.  Dan who was my age and, though I didn't know him well, a friend of a friend.  Surely, surely God wouldn't have allowed these thirteen to go.

I remember darkness for the next year.  There were moments in the sun, of course, but we all faced so much that seemed unlivable.  But somehow, we did.  We already had, and we would fight not only to regain our lives, but to make them mean something. For ourselves and for those we love who no longer have that opportunity.

This year - fifteen years later - I will celebrate Easter with two little humans who call me mom.  I will smile, laugh and feel this tiny one in my belly as it kicks and celebrates along with us.  There will be remembrance and tears.  But mostly?  There will be joy.

Wherever you are, but particularly if you are a teen: we all must face these Columbine-moments.  Your battle may not come in the form of two broken boys with guns, but not one of us gets out of this life emotionally and physically in-tact.  Whatever your personal tragedy looks like, I beg you to hold onto the fact that there can be healing around the corner.  Mourning is for the long-term, and you will never be the same, but you must hold on.  You must have the strength and courage to face your demons.  You must find acceptance, forgiveness and grace.

Healing is much like that nail in my tire.  You don't have to fix it.  You may even be able to keep driving, keep moving forward without noticing much of a difference.

For a while.

There's no getting around the fact that eventually it will rip you apart from the inside.  Sooner or later, that very real hole is going to start to show, and - probably when you least expect it - you'll find yourself stuck on the side of the road, unable to push even a single step further.

The only way to truly fix the problem is to dig in.  To face it.  To pay the cost and fix the broken pieces of your soul.  Like my car, healing fully may mean addressing not only the single damaged point, but everything else connected with it as well.  It may be hard.  It may be costly.  You may hate and resent every second of the process.

Do it anyway.  Do the work.  Find the strength.  You are worth it. 

You're never fully the same; never exactly as you were before - and part of coming to grips with tragedy means accepting that the normal you thought you knew is gone.  Forever.  The prize in all of this, then, the reason to keep going, is that you have no idea what awaits you fifteen years down the line.

When it seems the world as you know it has ended, the real journey has only just begun.  Trials are never senseless.  Life is never wasted.  The important question isn't what happened,  it's what happens next? 

We can live by example, because someone has walked the path ahead of us.  We are not bound to live in the tomb, encased by grief and sorrow and death.

We, too, can rise.  And amazing things await when we have the courage to do so.

Happy Easter, and so very much love to my entire Columbine family.  May you forever be Rebel Strong.


  1. Oh, I loved reading this. You have such a way with words and I love how our thoughts and feelings are totally on the same page. I hope you have a wonderful Easter with your sweet family, I'll be thinking of you!

    1. Thanks friend! So many hugs to you and yours this Easter, I'm so happy you got to come home and be here for this!! <3

  2. I absolutely love this post!! I wish everyone who has faced all we have faced reads it and sees that there is light at the end....even if its 15 years later *hugs* to yoy and your family.


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