We’re Running for Them

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We’re Running for Them

Feature Photo- The view from the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park. (Caroline Smith)

Feature Photo- The view from the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park. (Caroline Smith)

Feature Photo- The view from the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park. (Caroline Smith)

Feature Photo- The view from the Columbine Memorial at Clement Park. (Caroline Smith)

Caroline Smith, Review Staff

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Every year, Rangeview’s cross country team has various meets that can range from 30 minutes or two hours away. One of the further meets is at Clement Park in Littleton.

Most of the races are at parks throughout Denver or Aurora, but the race at Clement Park is not just an ordinary place to have a cross country meet because it is where the Columbine Memorial is located. The race is called “Dave Sanders” in remembrance of him as well as the other kids whose lives were taken during the shooting at Columbine on April 20th, 1999. 

Alison Maes, an art teacher at Rangeview and one of the cross country coaches, commented on that meet.

“In the future, I think we should talk about this a little more before the race. I think for our team, it doesn’t impact us enough – we had brief conversations, but it might be good to talk about it a little more. To think that you’re running more something more than usual, it’d give them more momentum and positivity,” Maes said. 

A greater purpose is found to run this meet. Instead of just running to get a better time, or beat more people, this race feels more important strictly because of the Columbine memorial being located there.

The “Ring of Remembrance” at the Columbine Memorial. Families of the victims wrote their remembrances that were engraved into stone. (Caroline Smith)

Being near Columbine, and in the park where the memorial is located, is a wake up call. It was a personalized experience that made me realize how cruel our world can be, but it’s also a reminder of how thankful I should be that I am alive today.

Thirteen lives were taken that morning of April 20th and 23 others were injured. Here’s a list of the victims whose lives were taken that day: 

  1. Cassie Bernall, 17
  2. Steven Curnow, 14
  3. Corey DePooter, 17
  4. Kelly Fleming, 16
  5. Matthew Kechter, 16
  6. Daniel Mauser, 15
  7. Daniel Rohrbough, 15
  8. Rachel Scott, 17
  9. Isaiah Shoels, 18
  10. John Tomlin, 16
  11. Lauren Townsend, 18
  12. Kyle Velasquez, 16
  13. William “Dave” Sanders, 47

On September 21st, 2007, the Columbine Memorial was opened to the public. You walk into the memorial and silence suddenly fills the vicinity. No one speaks; you can only hear the wind blowing through the trees. You hear water flowing from the nearby fountain. You hear a slight tapping of people’s shoes as they hit the brick ground. Inside, there’s a middle section that makes a circle. It’s called the “Ring of Remembrance”. Each victim has a saying from their families that talk about who the victim was and how they’ll be missed. Each person seemed like a truly good person because of the way they were involved in their community and how they were described. It’s easy to tear up because it’s so hard to believe that our world can have good people like that, that had futures planned, and wanted to do good things, but it was all taken away because of one day. 

Surrounding this circle is a wall of quotes that were made by students, parents, and faculty, called the “Wall of Healing”. 

Here are some:

  • “The hardest part to understand was kids killing kids.” (student)
  • “My friend was laughing and then it turned into crying and I thought my god, why is this happening to us.” (student)
  • “Rather than a loss of innocence, I’ve got to hope that something like this encourages us to be better people.” 
  • “The definition of normal changed on that day.” 
  • “A kid my age isn’t supposed to go to that many funerals.” (student) 
  • “When my mom finally found me, she just couldn’t seem to let go of me for the rest of the day.” (student)
  • “I hope people come here to this place to think about they themselves can be better people rather than come here to reflect on death.” (parent)

That last quote really made me think. I’ve been to the memorial three times and it still makes me feel the same way. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here nine times or this is just your first time visiting it — it makes you think and feel a bunch of emotions.

Pure sadness fills my heart as I read about the victims and everyone else’s quotes… my heart starts to ache. It just makes you think about your life and being a better person. I can only imagine what the people who went through this felt, I could never actually know. 

When the cross country team gets to a race, we set up our camp and shortly began our warmup after that. All of the girls go together, and varsity boys and JV boys run on their own. 

There’s a good group of girls this season — we’re good runners and we get along well. We’re loud and crazy and laugh all the time, but things were different when we went to the memorial.

As we are running the coarse, we pass the memorial and our captain, senior Mahayla Griggs, stops us right in front of it.

“Do you guys wanna go see the memorial?” she asks. 

Heads nod and we start to walk in. Going through it, our voices were silenced. The laughs stopped. The craziness became calmness in all of the chaos.

Everyone walked through and my team was waiting for me as I was the last one to finish walking around the memorial.

Still absolute silence.

I was sure someone was about to say something. Someone had to break the silence, maybe someone would crack a joke about something? Nope. I was still waiting — should I say something? Everyone was down and sad. 

Later, I was walking with Mahayla and another senior, Sofia Alvarez. Mahayla commented how we maybe shouldn’t have gone. 

Sophia said, “Well it is sad, but it doesn’t have to be. We can choose to let the sadness to make us better. We can just use it to motivate us during the race and do it ‘for them.’” 

A quote from the “Wall of Healing”. Quotes like these might make people really reflect about the idea of change. (Caroline Smith)

This is the whole point of the race — it’s to remember them and never forget that day. It’s a reminder, especially as there are many other shootings that have occured. We have to keep being reminded and someday our world will change. 

Griggs later commented, “No one really wanted to run anymore. A type of mourning just came over everyone. The whole team was hit with the realization of what happened and it was very evident. As a captain, it was hard to watch honestly. I didn’t know how to reverse it.” 

More quotes from the “Wall of Healing”:

  • “Nobody ever trained us for this; we were just teachers doing what we did everyday.”
  • “We remember every parent who battled depression and grief, anger, and sorrow; who battled the relentless task of waking up knowing their child would not come home.”
  • “I no longer take anything for granted.” (student)
  • “Even in the midst of tragedy we’ve seen the best, the best there is to see about our nation and about human nature.” 

Maes said, “To remember Dave Sanders and what he did for those students is really important and it’s a really well-known meet. Hundreds of schools go to it — it’s the second biggest in Colorado — so it’s really awesome to be apart of that.” 

Before the race, what happened at Columbine is talked about. There’s a little moment of silence and more silence comes if you later visit the memorial. This year, they were handing out little pins that you could’ve worn during the race, which refers back to Alvarez’s idea that we actually are running for the victims whose lives were taken on that day. 

“To remember the roots of the race and why it’s being held is important. Wearing those pins remembered those students. Even though it’s 20 years later, it’s something you shouldn’t forget, especially because there are still school shootings and it’s not decreasing at any rate,” Maes said.

Another angle of the “Wall of Healing”. It is shown that the location of this memorial is very scenic. (Caroline Smith)

When some of my family members went to the memorial later, I waited outside because I had already been in there and I didn’t want to get upset again. As I was waiting, a group of girls walked out and they were all bawling their eyes out. It truly doesn’t matter if you knew these people or not because this topic hits close to home. It really makes you think. 

The point of this memorial is to remember and never forget. While it’s sad to walk through it, you’re really reminded of how thankful and blessed you are to be alive. Going to the memorial and reading about the kids and Dave Sanders, made me want to be a better person. It made me want to go out and change the world. It made me want to be the happiest person in the world and radiate that. It made me want to never take a day or anything for granted, ever. It affects us so much because it happened to kids like us. These kids, innocent kids, actually lost their lives. It’s just a reminder and it’ll always be, especially with shootings happening often, which probably won’t stop unfortunately. It affects everyone, and as a community, how are we going to come up from it? How are we going to learn and what are we going to do about it? While we can’t stop shootings, the way we remember and continue on from there never has to stop. Memorials like the Columbine one are meaningful and important. It’s sad, but we remember. 

It’s there as a reminder and, quite frankly, a lesson: to live each day like it’s your last. While cliches like this seem to be annoying, they also seem to be the most true. People forget this, but you never really know when your last day will be. We shouldn’t be afraid of the idea of death, but we should be afraid of not living our lives to the fullest.