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Don't believe a Columbine kind of tragedy couldn't happen herePosted Friday, April 17, 2009, at 2:37 PM
Monday is the 10th-year anniversary of the Columbine (Col.) High School shooting massacre -- an event that has touched every school district in Greene County and around the state of Indiana.
On April 20, 1999, in the small, suburban town of Littleton, Col., two high school seniors, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, enacted a planned out all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day.
The plan was to kill hundreds of their school peers. With guns, knives, and a multitude of bombs, the two boys walked the hallways and killed at random.
When the day was done, 12 students, one teacher, and the two murderers were dead.
What a tragedy.
It was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
I was a news reporter then and remember writing about the horror and how it related to all of us back home in Greene County.
Parents, administrators and law enforcement officials in our local school districts feared there would be "copycat" attacks carried out in their own schools.
Greene County Emergency Management Director Roger Axe studied this horrible crime and worked with school superintendents and faculty in the five county school districts to take precautions and helped draw up safety plans that laid out a course of action in the event a tragedy like this would ever happen here.
That work is ongoing.
In fact, the Greene County School Safety Commission met Thursday night at Bloomfield High School and received an update from Indiana State Trooper Monte McKee, who works through the Indiana Homeland Security Department.
The Commission includes representatives from the five county schools, law enforcement as well as fire and emergency responders.
Years ago, I remember Roger telling me in a very serious tone "it could happen here."
In a 2004 story, I quoted Axe as saying:
"It can absolutely happen here. We have all of the ingredients."
Among the contributing factors, according to Axe, is the accessibility and social acceptance of guns in the Greene County community as a whole.
"We have all of the ingredients for a Columbine. We have the availability of firearms. It's a part of our culture and way of life around here."
The EMA director also said, "School safety has been a mission of mine for years -- even before the Columbine shootings," Axe said. "Our youngsters are a precious resource and need to be protected the best way we know how."
I also remember attending a state Emergency Management services conference in Indianapolis with Roger about a year after the Columbine shooting. One of the guest speakers was John Stone, who was the Jefferson County Sheriff -- where Columbine High is located.
The state conference brought together law enforcement, ambulance service, and fire department first responders along with supporting agencies high level briefings, educational training sessions and discussions on school safety issues.
Sheriff Stone said Klebold and Harris were angry teenagers. They were angry at athletes that made fun of them.
They didn't like Christians or blacks.
They hated everyone except for a handful of people.
Evidence of this hate is etched on the front page of Harris' journal that was confiscated by police after the shootings.
He wrote: "I hate the f...... world."
He also wrote that he hated racists, martial arts experts, and people who brag about their cars.
It appears both Klebold and Harris were serious about acting out on this hate.
As early as spring 1998, they wrote about killing and retaliation in each other's yearbooks -- drawing an image of a man standing with a gun, surrounded by dead bodies.
The high school students used the Internet to find recipes for pipe bombs and other explosives. They amassed an deadly arsenal, which included guns, knives, and 99 explosive devices.
It's a sad story that touched so many people.
Let's never forget that day and always remember that it could happen here.
Columbine High never thought such acts would occur in their building and there have been other shootings in other schools and universities and they didn't think it would happen there either.
Will the threat of such a Columbine-like attack every go completely away?
I doubt it.
Thank God, Greene County has been spared that kind of violence.
With the help of Axe, school officials, teachers, parents and the students we have made progress in our schools to make them safer in the last 10 years.
We must be vigilant as well as smart and continue listen to what our students are saying before they act.
There are usually warning signs for this kind of violence.
Let's all make sure we don't think for a minute that it can't happen here.
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