Columbine survivors, community celebrate role of faith in healing

“Columbine today is a model and example of resiliency,” current principal Scott Christy said


By Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post

LITTLETON, Colo. — Patrick Ireland felt God near him as an ambulance whisked him to a hospital after he was shot twice in the head in the massacre at Columbine High School.

He felt him again a few days later in the hospital as his parents prayed for him to live. And for the next 20 years, Ireland called on his faith to navigate the anger and grief that followed the shooting that day, he said Thursday.

Tom Tonelli, facing camera, a teacher at Columbine High School, hugs former principal Frank DeAngelis during a faith-based memorial service for the victims of the school nearly 20 years earlier, at a community church, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Littleton, Colo. (Rick Wilking/Pool Photo via AP)
Tom Tonelli, facing camera, a teacher at Columbine High School, hugs former principal Frank DeAngelis during a faith-based memorial service for the victims of the school nearly 20 years earlier, at a community church, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Littleton, Colo. (Rick Wilking/Pool Photo via AP)

Survivors of the massacre, family members of those slain and community gathered Thursday night at Waterstone Community Church to honor the 20th anniversary of the shooting in prayer and through shared faith. The night was meant to honor grief and the silent, personal ways so many healed from the massacre two decades ago.

“Columbine today is a model and example of resiliency,” current principal Scott Christy said.

Attendees exchanged deep hugs as they entered the Littleton church. After a prayer, survivors of the shooting and artists who have explored the tragedy through their art spoke to the role spirituality played in the aftermath of the shooting.

Those who experience tragedy sometimes can founder, said Evergreen author Philip Yancey, who has explored the connection between loss and faith in his books. They can question why it seemed that God disappeared in the most difficult moments.

Grief is like scuba diving, Yancey said. “The deeper you go, the slower you have to come up,” he said.

For Crystal Woodman-Miller, the grief and loss was sometimes overwhelming. She was a student at Columbine during the shooting. She hid under a cafeteria table as the shooters continued their rampage. Her faith helped her find hope after, she said Thursday.

Ireland’s faith helped him forgive the shooters who reshaped his life. After he crawled out of a school window, he underwent extensive rehabilitation.

“There is tremendous power in forgiveness,” Ireland, now 37, said Thursday.

Wednesday morning — even as police scoured the Front Range for a woman who had threatened area schools — someone had come to place a bundle of white roses on a plaque at the memorial to the victims near Columbine High School.

“Those of us who are people of faith in this community turned to God, found he was there and found he wasn’t silent,” the plaque read.

©2019 The Denver Post

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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