Monday, April 20, 2009

Remembering Columbine

Today is the 10 year anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. The day will, I'm sure, be marked by testimonials and "how far we've come" features in papers all over the country. Still, I don't know that any of those tributes are really going to capture what happened.

According to USA Today, half of children in schools now weren't even born when the actual shooting happened. To them, lockdown drills and the like are just what you do at school. Kind of like taking your shoes off at the airport.

I was a high school sophomore when the shootings happened and I remember that week very clearly. It was clear that something very different had happened than what had come before. In a lot of ways it broke the idea that schools were a safe place where nothing truly bad could happen.

The irony, of course, is that students in low-income, urban ghetto schools could have told you that already. The effect of Columbine was to shake the upper middle class idea of what schools were or could be. In areas where gang life was rampant, I can't think that it did much shaking at all.

In its own way, Columbine was 9/11 before there was 9/11. It was a singular, violent event that changed how we viewed an otherwise innocuous activity. And like taking our shoes off at the airport, its effects are ingrained into how we proceed into the future.

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