|"It's kind of part of who I am today. I think my priorities might be a little bit different if I hadn't had that experience," said Kristi Mohrbacher, a Columbine survivor.|
Columbine remains a part of survivors
10 years on, they focus on strength
LITTLETON, Colo. - The "boy in the window" - who fell bloodied and paralyzed into the arms of rescuers during the horrifying Columbine High shooting rampage - is doing just fine.
Now 27, Patrick Ireland has regained mobility and has few lingering effects from gunshot wounds to his head and leg a decade ago. He is married and works in the financial services industry. His mantra: "I choose to be a victor rather than a victim."
Like Ireland, many survivors of the April 20, 1999, massacre have moved on to careers, in education, medicine, ministry, retail.
But emotional scars still can trigger anxiety, nightmares, and deeply etched recollections of gunfire, blood, and bodies.
Some have written books; a few travel the world to share their experiences to help victims of violence.
"People have been able to have 10 years to reconcile what happened and see what fits in their life and who they are," said Kristi Mohrbacher of Littleton, who fled Columbine as the gunfire erupted. "It's kind of a part of who I am today. I think my priorities might be a little bit different if I hadn't had that experience."
Just after 11 a.m. a decade ago today, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, stormed the suburban school, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding about two dozen others. The massacre ended with the gunmen's suicides not quite an hour later.
Sean Graves saw the pair loading weapons in a parking lot and thought they were preparing a senior prank with paintball guns.
Graves, Lance Kirklin, and Daniel Rohrbough were walking toward them for a better look when the gunmen opened fire, killing Rachel Scott and Rohrbough and critically wounding Anne Marie Hochhalter, Graves, and Kirklin, among others.
In the second-floor library, Ireland was about to finish some homework when he heard pipe bombs exploding in the hallway.
Klebold and Harris strode in, shouted for students to stand up, laughing and ridiculing classmates as they sprayed bullets.
Ireland was shot twice in the head and once in a leg, and lost consciousness.
Harris and Klebold killed 10 students in the library before they left to reload, which gave some survivors a chance to flee.
Shortly before noon, the gunmen returned to the library and committed suicide.
Ireland awoke some time later, his vision blurred. Over the next three hours, he pulled his body along to the window.
Ireland pushed himself up to the window and got the attention of SWAT teams below.
Today, Graves will go back to the spot where he was shot, smoke a cigar, and leave another on the ground for Rohrbough, something he does every year.
Ireland recognizes he will long be remembered as the face of Columbine because of his dramatic rescue. He accepts it as a way to emphasize that Columbine should be another word for "hope and courage."
And how does he want to be remembered?
"A triumphant recovery and success story."