What I heard as I was pulling out of the school shocked me. There had been school shootings before; indeed, the threat of school shootings had formed the basis of my first published story just four years before. But the reports coming out of Colorado felt unprecedented in their scope. The idea that two kids had managed to acquire enough weaponry to kill thirteen of their classmates and teachers, and to place the entire community under siege – it just seemed unreal.
It especially hit home for me. The early reports coming out of Littleton implied that the two killers had been picked-upon outcasts getting their revenge, and like many of us, I knew what it felt like to be an outcast in school. Furthermore, as a teacher I tended to advise kids who felt like outcasts themselves, and so I couldn't help but wonder if someone close to me might – no, the very idea was unthinkable. It had to be.
I don't recall much of the afternoon once I got home. Nomi tells me that she came home from work to find me glued to the television set, trying to eke out every possible detail from the evening news. Like the rest of us, I was trying to make sense out of the horrific event, and getting nowhere.
(In all seriousness, over the next month I looked into the possibility of getting a gun license that would allow me to carry secretly at a school, for protection. I soon gave up the idea, but that should tell you how much the tragedy affected me from over a thousand miles away.)
Ten years later, Columbine has faded for many of us slightly, as Virginia Tech has now supplanted it in both intensity and currency. But for some of us, it will probably remain as fresh a tragedy as it was on that day in 1999.