Saturday, June 17, 2006

Have we forgotten...or did we just never realize?

I didn't know that the Columbine memorial has finally become a reality until I read the news online this evening. It was something of a shock to realize that this was going on this afternoon while I was tucked up in a blanket on my couch, my laptop on my lap, listening to the rain...perhaps a 15 minute drive from Columbine.

It seems appropriate that the weather for the groundbreaking ceremony was a full 20 degrees cooler than it has been the rest of the week, and that it rained on and off all afternoon. Mother Nature was crying for this tragedy, I'm sure.

I grew up in Unincorporated Jefferson County (the area loosely known as "Littleton"); I went to Columbine's sister school, Chatfield; and I had many friends and co-workers affected by the shooting seven years ago. After the shooting, Littleton seemed to stand still for about a week, as though everyone were holding their breath. Eventually, even the students of Columbine had to return to everyday life, and Chatfield opened her doors wide to the now-homeless students while committees and school boards tried to decide what to do with the tainted school.

Stickers that featured a columbine and the words "Never forget..." were very popular for several years following the shooting. Being young at the time, it never occurred to me to wonder what, exactly, people wanted to remember.

The plans for the memorial made me realize the truth.

The memorial recognizes the 12 students and 1 teacher that were killed on that day, as well as twenty-some others who were wounded. It is glaringly obvious that the community is doing its best to forget the two teens responsible for the shootings.

"Never forget" is not about remembering the people who died that day, or even about remembering that these kinds of tragedies can happen. It's about remembering blame and harboring hate.

Although this appears to be a very controversial topic, I strongly believe that Harris and Klebold were victims, albeit in a very different way than the rest of those who suffered as a result of the Columbine shooting. Harris and Klebold were very troubled individuals, yes, but their problems were also very much overlooked by society, the school system, even their own parents. Moreover, their problems may very well have been exacerbated by this ignorance.

Tolerance for bullying is a major problem, not just in our school systems, but in our society at large. To me, that's what "Never forget" should have meant. It should have been a wake-up call that there is something fundamentally wrong with how we socialize our children.

And that is why I believe Harris and Klebold deserve a spot on that memorial - or at the very least, a memorial of their own. We need a reminder of the responsibility that we bear to all of society's children - and what happens when we forsake them.

Hate led Harris and Klebold astray, just as surely as it took the 15 lives lost at Columbine. Isn't it time we forgot and learned to let go of hate?

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