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Confronting: Columbine

Entered in Podcast Mini Series

Objective

It’s been more than 20 years since two teenagers killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado. It was the first school shooting in America to be covered over live television as the events unfolded It was a media spectacle. It’s dark legacy persists with more than 50% of parents today say they worry about school shootings on a regular basis.


Our host, Amy Over, has dedicated her life to supporting and connecting victims of mass shootings across the country. But until she hosted the podcast, she had not confronted her own experience. On Confronting: Columbine, Amy connects with people she hasn’t spoken with since the shooting. Amy got people to open up in surprising ways with her sincere and authentic approach. We meet other survivors of Columbine and hear their stories. She talks to the man who let her and her friends hide in his house when they were running for safety. She introduces us to her former principal whose wife divorced him and children stopped speaking to him because they felt he cared more about his surviving students than he did about his own family. We meet Amy's friend Zac who was a lead suspect for days after the shooting because he skipped school that day and announced on Facebook that no one should go to school on 4/20. Amy shares her own intimate stories, including the first time she dropped her daughter at school and experienced a debilitating panic attack and had a complete breakdown.

Strategy

Many of the survivors are now parents of high schoolers. They have kids the same age they were when the shooting occurred. And some send their kids to Columbine High School.

When we thought about that, we wondered how the victims of Columbine have continued to be affected all these years later. We partnered with Amy Over, a Columbine Alum and survivor advocate to guide us through the experience. Amy was a Senior in 1999 and went to Columbine High School that day feeling down. All she wanted was a basketball scholarship so she could go to college. So far, it hadn’t happened. Her Coach and mentor Dave Sanders, called her into his office and proudly told her he had secured her a scholarship. Elated, she skipped her normal lunch in the library and went to the cafeteria to tell her friends the good news. That was when the shooting started. A majority of the kids shot that day were in the library. Her beloved coach was shot and bled to death while students held up signs in the windows begging for someone to come in and save him. No one came.

When Columbine occurred, it felt like the Martians had landed. It was so unexpected, so shocking that no one knew what to do. Especially not law enforcement. We’ll hear from officers and investigators who responded that day. We learn how unprepared they were for what they saw, why they didn’t enter the school for three hours and what they didn’t tell the public that day. Amy talks to the SWAT team member who made the choice to save her classmates instead of rescuing her coach. Amy also speaks with an FBI investigator who still suffers from the trauma of that day.

What surprised us was how wrong the reporting was in terms of the killers and what really happened. Americans were told they were goth kids who were part of a “trench coat mafia”. In fact, they were average kids who had friends, went to the prom and had after school jobs. Their idea was not to shoot their fellow students it was to bomb the building creating a mass casualty. They used the guns to chase people into the area where the bombs had been planted. By some miracle, the bombs did not go off.

As we learned what unfolded that day, we felt a purpose to tell these stories from those who experienced it directly. The story of Columbine, over 20 years later, had still not truly been told. Our strategy was to tell these stories from a first-person perspective to show the impact and reality that exists in our society. Mass casualty events have existed for a long time and continue to persist today. It is a national epidemic. And the trauma experienced by the survivors is real and pervasive. Our strategy was to tell real, vulnerable and raw stories from the survivors of Columbine to shed light on this important topic.

Results

Our goal was to confront the trauma of Columbine, both from an individual and societal level.  April 20th, 1999 is one of our country’s most horrifying days yet it was important to us that it’s legacy not be forgotten. The success of our project was dependent upon the community accepting and opening up to the podcast team. The trust the community gave us allowed us to produce episodes that offer both lessons from Columbine and cautionary tales for the future. 

Sickening violence occurs, people are killed, cameras come and then people move on. What we learned is that while the nation and news cycle move on, the people impacted do not. With the “new normal” of school shootings from Parkland, Florida to Oxford, Michigan, this podcast is a roadmap of what we can expect from a generation of children in 20 years. The trauma doesn’t leave. It impacts every part of life.

Given that, the most important thing for us was what this did for Amy. She says for the first time in her life, she doesn’t have nightmares. It was a cathartic experience for her and other participants who appreciated her approach. Because of that, for the first time, her 21-year-old wounds are beginning to heal.

Media

Video for Confronting: Columbine

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Glass Podcasts

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