A day of remembrance

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Community gathers to reflect on 10-year anniversary of Columbine tragedy

By AJ Vicens

As former Columbine teacher Alan Cram handed out candles Sunday evening for a vigil to remember those who died on April 20, 1999, he pondered the lessons of the tragedy 10 years later.

"I'm still concerned about the kids," Cram said. "It's too easy to let kids go off and do their thing. Without having support, it's pretty lonely out there. We need to be available for them."

Cram, who retired from Columbine High School at the end of the 1999 school year, says a key lesson from the tragedy is that adults in the schools and in the community need to be there for kids, and he's not sure that's happening enough.

Cram handed out more than 1,100 candles as hundreds jammed the Columbine Memorial in Clement Park for the candlelight vigil. People began filing into the memorial about 7:30 p.m., as the sun was setting behind the mountains. By 8 p.m., the memorial was packed.

A diversity of moods was reflected in the faces and the sounds. Some shed tears. Others hugged the people nearby. Gentle laughter also could be heard on the cool, comfortable night.

"This community has progressed remarkably," said John Flerlage, a South Jeffco resident and former hockey coach at Columbine High. Flerlage's son attended Columbine and has moved on to Columbia University in New York. Flerlage said his son's success wouldn't be possible without the people at Columbine.

"They love those children like their own kids," he said.

On Monday, flags around the state flew at half-staff to honor the 12 students and one teacher who died at Columbine when gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold attacked the school.

Other events were planned on the day of the anniversary. Colorado Ceasefire and the Million Mom March hosted a Columbine Remembrance and Rededication ceremony starting at 11 a.m. on the west steps of the state Capitol. Survivors of the shootings gathered at the Columbine Memorial on Monday afternoon, and a community memorial event was scheduled there at 5 p.m. Columbine High was closed Monday.

While many young people at Sunday night’s vigil looked to be of high school age and wore Columbine shirts and hats, equally as many donned the gear of rival schools such as Chatfield and Dakota Ridge.

A couple of Dakota Ridge freshman, Dylan Hoffman, 15, and Jordan Romero, 14, sat off to the side, holding their candles.

"There's a good reason to come to this," Hoffman said. "It's a good way to learn what's right and what's wrong."

Hoffman said the lesson of Columbine for him is that everyone should be treated the same, no matter what clique they run with or who they are.

"You never know a breaking point in someone until something happens," Hoffman said.

Romero said the students and families who experienced the tragedy that day a decade ago obviously feel the pain a lot more than he ever could, but "the impact is still there."

"We have to respect what they went through, and we have to be careful," Romero said. "Tragedy can happen anywhere."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.