An Unwelcome Reminder Of Columbine

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It's been 13 years since I gazed upon the Columbine High School campus, along with an army of fellow reporters and photographers, and wondered about the irony of violence in such a setting.

Twelve students and one teacher were killed in that rampage on April 20, 1999.

It ended when two troubled students, who had armed themselves with an arsenal, killed themselves in the school library.

I arrived the following day, with the unwelcome task of talking to grieving students and family members who had seen their world shattered.

Shattered, especially, since these kinds of things were not supposed to happen at a place that was supposed to be safe.

No place is truly a sanctuary from unexplainable violence. But at a school?

That was the sentiment I heard over and over from traumatized young people who stood with us on the outskirts of campus.

To make things worse, that night, the warm spring weather disappeared, replaced by a Rocky Mountain snowstorm.

Everyone shivered in the gloom. It was easily the most difficult and disagreeable assignment I'd ever had.

So those memories of Columbine came flooding back when news broke of another mass shooting less than 20 miles away.

Like Columbine, the Aurora movie theater was an unlilkely if not unthinkable candidate for that kind of violence. People who had come for some fun and entertainment instead found themselves to be targets.

But there was also a big difference.

The two high school students who engineered the Columbine massacre took their own lives.

All that was left was the investigation.

Was that less painful for the victims, who wouldn't endure a trial? The motives of the two killers had to be pieced together postmortem.

In the case of Aurora, shooting survivors and the friends and family of the victims got their first look at suspect James Holmes in court on Monday. And it was a bizarre look, with his red-dyed hair and vacant stare - just the beginning of a lengthy court drama.

Unlike Columbine, those whose lives were shattered in Aurora now face the prospect of an extended legal ordeal.

That gives them the chance to get some direct answers as to why this happened; to look into the mind of Holmes to hear what the motive was, no matter how peculiar.

That may be welcome, or something to dread.

But at least there will be answers that survivors can consider, as they move to put this tragedy behind them.

Author Kevin Riggs, an Emmy-winning former TV reporter in Sacramento, is Senior Vice President at Randle Communications.

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