Poem: April 20, 1999

cassie-bernall-book

In honor of today being the 18th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, I thought I would share the poem I wrote about the event.

I was on the bus on the way to a basketball game during my junior year of high school, two years after the shooting. For once I wasn’t doing homework on the bus; instead I finished reading “She Said Yes,” Cassie Bernall’s witness and felt inspired to write about it from her perspective.

No matter how many years pass, we still haven’t found a solution. It’s still hard to imagine that shootings and rampages like this continue. In our schools, in our communities, in our churches.

We’ve got to find a better way to handle our anger, to address differences and engage in dialogue calmly.


With “Macbeth” laying in front of me
I sat hunched over it in the stiff, wooden library chair
Looking over the material.
The soft whispering from my friends
As they studied were the only sounds heard.
They mechanically turned the pages
And scribbled down a handful of words.
“Double, double toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble”
The three witches plotting against Macbeth.
My friends, scattered around the nearby tables,
Were absorbing their designated information
As if not understanding was tantamount to failure.

A teacher I’d come to respect
Ran into the room, yelling at us to get under the tables
Saying people with guns were roaming the halls.
Unlike the others, I didn’t move.
They huddled under the tables and desks
Like they were bomb shelters
Disregarding the sticky substances covering the top.
I didn’t budge.
It was just another prank.

In the middle of a completely lifeless instant
An eruption was heard
And gun shots echoed in the halls.
Frozen in my seat
Pen poised in mid-air,
I glanced over to the others;
Our eyes wider than the fist my fingers were wrapped in.
No one dared to speak a word.
Within seconds I was under the table
Hugging my friends.
My breathing came in sharp and uneven fragments.
Everyone else was painfully quiet.

Within a few seconds,
Yelling was heard,
Guns fired
And someone hit the ground.
I watched in slow motion
As two figures entered the library
Firing away and cheering each other’s results.
They walked over to us continuously pulling their triggers
And laughing.
They got so close I could touch them.
Thankfully my voice was caught in my throat
Otherwise I would have yelled.

The firing ceased eventually
And the guys left quickly.
Wrapped in my own thoughts,
I didn’t realize my friends left
Through a back exit.
I folded my hands, “Dear God …”

The two boys came back
Eager to resume their rampage.
They approached me.
One took hold of my arm, pulling me to my feet,
The deadly object digging into my skin above my ear.
My nerves were playing jump rope.
“Do you believe in God?”
He asked.
“Yes.”
My voice surfaced when I needed it:
Strong and firm.
“Why?”
The answer bounced around in my head
Like a paddle board game.
Before I got a chance to say my Savior’s name
The trigger was pulled.

2366195
The victims

So, do you remember where you were when you heard about Columbine?

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7 thoughts on “Poem: April 20, 1999”

  1. That was so sad and wonderful at the same time. She died but before she did she acclaimed her Lord!

    “We must strive to embrace the crosses which God sends us with a willing, even joyful heart.”

    Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chilling and beautiful all in one. Makes me really consider how I would react in this type of situation. Thank you for the powerful insight. Such a terrible tragedy. How can we grow and make a positive difference with the courage to stand up for our faith? This is the challenge we must all contemplate. Love wins in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It’s such a delicate situation but there’s still so much we can learn. Yes, I’m not entirely sure if I would have been able to remain as strong. Faced with the chance of preserving my physical life, that temptation to cave might be really strong.

      Like

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