For Columbine Survivors, A Nightmare Revisited

Forty miles away and seven years earlier, Crystal Miller stood where the six hostages in the Platte Canyon High School shooting stood on Wednesday. Like Emily Keyes, who died yesterday from a gunshot wound, Miller was sixteen-years-old when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into her school and shot to death 12 of her fellow classmates and one teacher at Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado.

"I remember so well the emotion that's involved, the questions, the fear and the guilt and the anger; just that roller coaster of emotions that you go through and living in that paradoxical state of being thankful that you are alive, but wishing you were dead because the pain is so overwhelming," said Miller.

The pain Miller describes is not physical; she was not injured in the Columbine shooting. Her pain comes from her vivid memories of April 20, 1999. She was studying for a physics tests and hid under a table when the shooting began.

"I was there in the middle of the library for seven and a half minutes. Of course it felt like an eternity. For these seven and a half minutes I imagined so many different things. What would it feel like to get shot? I had my life flashing before my eyes, and at the end of the seven and a half minutes the boys ran out of ammunition as they stood above our table," remembered Miller.

Now 24-years-old, Miller is speaking to high school students around the country with the 180 Tour, using her experience at Columbine to teach young people that the decisions they make can have eternal consequences.

Miller was leaving a school assembly on Wednesday when she heard about the shooting in Bailey. "It takes you back and you remember things. I've done a tremendous amount of healing over the last seven and half years, but of course there's always raw emotion there when you hear something like this," said Miller. "It hurts so bad to hear that something like this is going on, but especially back in Denver, not far from Columbine, to recognize that once again our community is struggling and has so many questions, but no answers to those questions."

A Parent's Perspective

On that fateful day in Littleton, John Ireland waited for hours to find out where his son Patrick was. John was at work on Wednesday when he read about the hostage situation in Bailey and he instantly remembered getting word about the shooting at Columbine. "Everything comes back," said Ireland.

Ireland assumed his son Patrick had left the high school for lunch, but later learned that he'd been in the library with Miller. Patrick was shot twice in the head and once in the foot before escaping through the library window into the arms of SWAT team members.

"I can relate to the parents yesterday who were waiting for their children as they took them out of the school to transport them to the middle school, wondering whether or not your child is going to be there or where your child was at that time," Ireland said, commenting that the images of parents arriving at Platte Canyon affected him the most.

Ireland knows right where his son is today, at work. Pat, who was seventeen at the time of the Columbine shooting, is now 25 years old. He's mostly recovered from complete paralysis of his right side and was recently married.

Randy Brown, another father during Columbine, notes that the Bailey shooting and others like it make it difficult for those touched by Columbine to move on -- such as his son Brooks whom he says is depressed because of the news.

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