Remembering Columbine from an insider's perspective
Friday marks 13 years since 13 people were killed in the Columbine High School massacre. One of the survivors was State Representative Kevin Parker, who was in the cafeteria when the massacre happened.
"It was about 11:19 and we started to hear gunfire outside," Parker recalls. "There were 500 of us huddled in silence on the floor of the cafeteria as we began to hear gunshots."
What the students didn't know at the time was that students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were going through the school, systematically shooting teachers and students.
By the end of the day, 12 students and one teacher were dead, another 24 were wounded and Klebold and Harris committed suicide.
But at 11:19 when gunshots started ringing out all Parker and everyone else in the cafeteria could think about was survival.
"Most of us thought we were going to die on the floor at Columbine High School," Parker said.
What he didn't know at the time was that Representative Parker was sitting close to one of the biggest bombs - a 20-pound propane bomb - built by the shooters. In total 99 bombs were planted around the school.
The one next to Parker never went off.
"I remember touring the school after the shooting, there were whole entryways that were just blown up, detonated with bombs so that when a door opened the bomb had exploded," he said.
None of the students in the cafeteria were killed and Parker credits teacher Dave Sanders for saving his and every other students' lives there. Sanders was shot and died in the arms of students.
"A guy like Dave Sanders, the teacher who wanted to see his family for one last time, and the only glimpse he had was in his wallet and it was being held by another Columbine student to show him his family one last time," Parker said.
Parker, just 25 at the time, was a Young Life volunteer at Columbine, so he was close to many of the students. He continues to be a mentor to students locally, speaking at schools about bullying and violence.
"What's been I think most compelling and most encouraging as one of the reasons I believe there hasn't been another instance like Columbine in the country is because high school kids and junior high kids have developed a level of courage to where if they see something they're reporting it," he said.
Surviving Columbine taught him this: You have more to give than you realize. Live your dream now as that opportunity can be taken away quickly.
There was one last thing Columbine taught Representative Parker.
"Leadership is a behavior that all of us in our community need to exercise more because we all do have something to offer."
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