Thursday, April 5, 2018

First Line Friday: Columbine


First Line Friday is brought to you by Hoarding Books.

This week my line comes from a book that I have been wanting to read for a long time, but could never quite bring myself to actually do so, until now.

I was a sophomore in high school when Columbine happened. And that is how we've always referred to the massacre, and even do now still. There was life BEFORE Columbine, and life AFTER Columbine. It is true that there were other school shootings prior to Columbine, but this was the definitive one for me for a couple reasons:

1. I was old enough to understand what it meant in the grand scheme of life as a high school student

2. The first footage I ever saw from the tragedy as been imprinted on my brain and will never leave me as long as I live

5632446

"He told them he loved them."

For those outside the US who may not know, (or maybe you do, since our country has a horrible record of these mass murders, and no one in power seems to want to do anything about it), on April 20th, 1999 two boys walked into their high school armed with an arsenal of weapons and ended up killing thirteen students and staff before killing themselves in the school library. THIS article from The Guardian is a great read, written on the 10th anniversary.

I understood that day that life was going to be very different going forward. Sure enough, in the weeks that followed there were an assortments of idiots (all caught) who wrote notes or called in bomb threats, disrupting our final two months of the school year. I remember with perfectly clarity the first one, where we were forced to evacuate to the football stadium while bomb-sniffing dogs combed the school. I wondered out loud what they would have done in the event that the threat was real, but the weapon was false, and perhaps someone was actually waiting outside with guns to kill us all as we sat on the bleachers, enclosed by a fence. The second bomb threat came the day we were in the middle of our AP US History exam. The evacuation order was given, and we refused to leave. We protested that it was not real, it was another hoax, and we wanted to finish our exam. The proctor pleaded with us to go, and we refused. It took the principal coming into the room and ordering us out, to finally get us moving.

But far more important than my own personal experience with the aftermath, were those images of students, teenagers just like me, sobbing and bleeding, being loaded into ambulances, or covered with sheets until their bodies could be removed from the scene. The very first image, seared into my brain on that day, came in the evening when we (the track team) were returning to school from a meet. The bus dropped us off at the main doors and as we walked in, one of the televisions in the main entry was turned to CNN. I watched in horror as footage played of a boy so desperate to escape what turned out to be Columbine's library, that he was willing to drop out a second story window, being dragged down to safety by SWAT.

So, I am giving this one a go now. It may take me a long time to read or it may take me no time at all. I honestly have no idea.

Leave a comment or a line of your own and I'll be sure to check out your post as well.

Sarah

44 comments:

  1. Powerful stuff. I still remembe that day too...

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    1. Very powerful, especially as it has been nearly twenty years and these murders are still occurring. It is even more scary to me now, as I am not only a teacher but I have a baby about to go to kindergarten. The thought of her going into a public school setting is horrifying to me.

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  2. I remember it too. I know exactly what you mean about 'before' and 'after'. Hopefully the latest protests will be the beginning of the end for this sort of thing? I think people are finally waking up to the fact that these things simply don't happen anywhere else with this frequency and that you really need to look at yourselves to sort it out. I can imagine that the book was a tough read - living so close to things as you do.

    My first line(s):

    "Have you ever heard of the 'Mystery Monkey,' which provided a sideshow to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida? The monkey in question, an escaped rhesus macaque, had been living for more than three years on the city's streets scavenging food from dumpsters and trash cans, dodging cars, and cleverly evading capture by frustrated wildlife officials."

    The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman

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    1. It is definitely going to be hard-going. I hope that some good can come from the horrible tragedy at Parkland. There's never been a response like this before, coming from the generation immediately impacted and I am so, so proud of these kids who not only had to watch classmates and teachers die, but now have to take on the bullies of the right who claim their crisis actors and were not even at the school that day. It is disgusting to see adults behavior in such a deplorable way, but it is not a surprise.

      It will probably not surprise you that I added your book to my TBR.

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    2. Also, forgot this point - those opposing any kind of common sense laws to restrict firearm access, when told that other countries do not have this problem, respond by pointing to population differences. They would much rather list all the ways it might not work instead of coming up with solutions. And they're hardly accurate in their population counts anyway, because so many of them are morons.

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    3. I saw an interview on MSNBC I think with the ex-PM of Australia. When asked what he would advise - after his experience with the Port Arthur shootings there - he said: Change your laws.

      Oh, In future shall I just let you know everything I have in *my* (non-fiction) TBR list so you can just add it straight to yours? [lol]

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    4. Yes!! But there are people here who say things like, "Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws on the books and the gun violence there is among the highest in the country!" What those people fail to take into account is the fact that while Chicago has some of the strictest laws, Illinois' next door neighbor Indiana has some of the weakest, and that's where many of the guns are coming from. it is baffling to me that they can't understand how the black market works.

      The same people though, also assume that 'gun control' = Obama is coming for your guns! (Still, despite the fact that he is no longer president. But whatevs. Like I said, these people are not bright.) If the laws were the same across the country, if there were more strict background checks, and bans on certain weapons ( no one needs military-grade weapons, except the military!), as well as those damn bump stocks that make semi-automatic weapons into automatics, we might be able to get this under some semblance of control.

      As for the TBR thing, pretty much! Do you use Goodreads? I could pretty much just comb your TBR and add dozens more to mine, lol. And vice versa!

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    5. I watched quite a lot of US News coverage (on YouTube) after the Parkland shooting to try and get my head around things. Apart from the fact that you have WEIRD TV over there I heard all the lame arguments and some very cogent answers back. I think what's missing is the will and the (totally inexplicable to me) *reverence* for both the 2nd Amendment and guns themselves.

      Sorry, don't use Goodreads - though I check it from time to time (usually via Stephen's blog). Guess I'll just have to drip feed you suggestions!

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    6. It IS insane. The second amendment does not protect these high powered weapons and seriously, did the Founding Fathers REALLY see a future that involved weapons like that? And the whole "well-regulated militia" part is conveniently forgotten. No one is advocating for taking all the guns away, but no one needs a weapon like that for hunting, it would totally defeat the purpose of hunting. I had some heated arguments with someone from my church about it on Facebook and hie argument was that we can't rely on the government to protect us and that he would protect his family. I guess I have never felt the need to protect myself with a cache of guns, which of course I would be unable to fire all at once anyway. It is baffling to me. I am not opposed to responsible gun-ownership. However, my opinion is that it needs to be regulated in much the same way car ownership does - licensing, insurance, etc. But the NRA will do everything in their power (which, unfortunately, is a lot of power) to stop any kind of common sense gun laws from being put into place.

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  3. I've seen documentaries on this and it is so scary. I never worried for my safety at school so I can't even imagine going to school under that kind of threat. Scary.

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    1. It scares me even more now as a mom! My baby has to go to kindergarten next year and I teach at a different school than the one she attends. It is causing some major anxiety on my end as it gets closer.

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    2. Also - glad you are feeling a bit better!

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  4. I was on a long media-free vacation when Columbine happened (travelling in Europe, so there was limited English-language news).

    I don't recall seeing any of the footage, but I can understand how it would imprint it on your brain. I don't know if I'd be brave enough to read such a book, so good for you for giving it a go.

    My contributions this week are a little more light-hearted. I'm sharing the first line from Winning Miss Winthrop by Carolyn Miller on my blog today—a wonderful Christian Regency romance.

    But today I'm sharing the first line of the book I'm currently reading - an advance copy of Falling for You by Becky Wade. It doesn't release until 1 May, but I loved True to You and I have no self-control when it comes to Becky Wade, so here are the opening lines:

    "I discovered a secret."
    Corbin Stewart looked sharply at twelve-year-old Charlotte Dixon. "What kind of a secret?"

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    1. Hi Iola, thanks for coming by! I wish I had never seen the footage. I wish I could get it all out of my head - but then I run the risk of the trauma lessening as years fog our memories and I can't let that happen. No one who saw any of it can afford to, we have to protect and value our children now, or we are going to keep losing them.

      I appreciate your more light-hearted lines and books, it is most welcome when mine are a bit more serious than usual.

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  5. That sounds like it will be challenging read. Those kinds of shootings certainly get a lot of coverage over here, but I don't necessarily remember the specific details of each one. I just pray something will change over there soon. We can't let it keep happening!

    The book I'm featuring on my blog today is 'Shadows of Hope' by Georgiana Daniels, but I'm going to share the first line of my current read here: The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart:

    "Toren Daniels rolled over in bed and light pierced his closed eyelids, which meant five a.m. had come and gone."

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    1. I can imagine that they all blend together after a while. Especially given the frequency and the fact that no other developed nation has problems like this. There are so many pieces to the solutions that it requires cooperation from both sides. I sadly don't see that happening in the near-future.

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  6. Happy Friday! I own this book too but can't bring myself to pick it up! I have one daughter in high school and one in middle school. Everyday I pray when they get on their busses.....

    My FLF comes from a book im starting soon, Honeysuckle Dreams by Denise Hunter......

    Playing house was just a little too easy for Hope Daniels. Her special chicken casserole waited in the oven, covered with foil; butter beans were simmering on the stovetop; and the yeasty smell of baked rolls hung in the air.

    Have a great weekend!😀

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    1. Well perhaps you can give it a try in a bit and we can encourage each other to keep going, even when it seems like it is becoming unbearable. My baby is much younger and will be in kindergarten next year, and the thought of sending her off is terrifying - especially because I work in a different school. I would love to have a teaching position in her school, and then my anxiety might be marginally calmed.

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  7. This was a good book. One of the points I remember from it was that Columbine was less a school shooting than a failed bombing -- the pair had planted several bombs in the cafeteria, outside the school, and even in the countryside as a decoy. The guns were to sweep survivors who were running out.

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    1. Good to know someone who has read it! I too recall those facts coming out much, much later. I remember back to those weeks after and all we heard about were these damn trench coats and Marilyn Manson. I don't recall ever hearing about bombs being planted as decoys elsewhere, but I remember reading of how they hoped the bombs would bring down the library which was above the cafeteria. We can at least be thankful that in the end, they might have been good planners but were really shitty bomb builders.

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  8. BEDFORD, ENGLAND
    MAY 1659

    The babe's crying would rip her heart to shreds if she had to listen to it one more minute. - The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

    Happy Friday and Happy Reading!

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    1. Hi Caryl, thanks for sharing your line. Happy Reading!

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  9. So much tragedy and grief in this world. Definitely a challenging read for you.

    I'm currently reading the First Love Forever Collection, so I'll share the first line from the current novella I'm in, Heartfelt Echoes by Jennifer Uhlarik:

    Travis McCaffrey stared at the front door of the mansion before him.

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    1. Yes, it definitely will be, but I am also looking forward to at least understanding how it could happen and why in this case that it did. I can never for one moment imagine hating the world so much that I'd ever even think about doing something like this. I don't understand that level of rage or where it comes from.

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  10. I remember it well. So much grief and tragedy that has repeated itself too often in different locations. The book I'm highlighting on my blog is The Mistress of Rosemere by Sarah Ladd. I will share here the first line of Chapter 11, which I'm currently reading. "A flurry of activity swirled in the recovering Rosemere." Wishing you a blessed weekend.

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    1. Exactly. My faith in humanity is being restored little by little thanks to the Parkland students who have become so active. To see these children doing for themselves what the adults in charge should be doing, gives me hope for the future.

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  11. Happy Friday! My first line is from Joel C. Rosenberg's book The Kremlin Conspiracy:

    "Louisa Sherbatov had just turned six, but she would never turn seven."

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    1. Hi Becky, thanks for sharing. Happy Friday!

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  12. I was one month away from high school graduation when Columbine happened. It rocked my world. I don't think I could ever forget 4-20-99.

    Today on my blog, I am sharing the first line from Rachael Anderson's newest Regency novel, My Sister's Intended. It's an excellent book I highly recommend. Here I will share the first three lines from the novel I'm currently reading, Not Abandoned by MacKenzie Morganthal.

    "It was a prison like none other. With boarded windows and a tall fence, I'd almost forgotten what it looked like outside. The bars that caged me in were strong, but not as strong as the bars I'd put up around my heart."

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    1. Same here. And then, these incidents keep happening. Like, let's see how much higher of a body count we can get, blech. The media seems so happy to shout a new "deadliest mass shooting in the US" sometimes, it is awful. After Va Tech I thought surely that was IT. But then Pulse in Orlando and the music festival in Vegas...but the schools really get to me. I'm a teacher and my baby is starting kindergarten. it makes me ill just thinking about her being away from me, since I work in a different building.

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    2. I did REALLY, REALLY, REALLY struggle with the almost complete lack of reaction after Vegas. Could that happen in ANY other country without causing so much as a ripple? That's the kind of thing happening in FAILED States not functioning ones! [shakes head sadly]

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    3. Agreed, 100%. There's been nothing about it for months now. Right-wing conspiracy theorists have had a heyday with it, saying it was another government set-up (like they say Sandy Hook was), in order to take all the guns from everyone. There's all kinds of stuff about second shooters, the delayed (supposedly) response times of law enforcement, etc. It is sickening.

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  13. I remember when Columbine happened, I was a senior in high school. Now having a sophomore in high school is scary for me. You just never know! I'm sure this was a heartbreaking read.

    Happy Friday :)

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    1. Right?! I am already anxious, and my baby will be in kindergarten next year. I don't know if I can handle 13 years of massive anxiety!

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  14. Thanks Sarah. I know it's a tough subject. But I opened with that line largely to jolt each reader with the feeling that you were in for some surprises here--and some rays of light. This story is very different than it was reported in the early days. And it's dark, for sure, but there are some amazing moments of overcoming and redemption.

    I hope it's a good read for you.

    My favorite first line, I'll try from memory:

    I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice; not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death--I will remember him because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meaney.

    (I'll have to go see how I did.) :)

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    1. Hi Dave, I am so glad you stopped by! Over the years I have read more of the real story, in anniversary pieces and such. It amazes me just how much was wrong so early on and how all that wrongness was repeated over and over until people were convinced that every kid in a long coat listening to Manson was hiding a weapon beneath their coat. I was incredibly surprised by the opening line and that's why I knew immediately that this is the book I would be using this week. I look forward, with trepidation of course, trying to understand what can drive people to do things like this.

      I've never read A Prayer for Owen Meaney (I know, I know) - how did you do with remembering the lines??

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    1. It's hard to scrub it from your mind. Especially when the same events keep happening over and over, and they pile up and add to the trauma and grief.

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  16. I’m going to show the first line of The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo:
    Mama may have been named for the great-grandmother who traveled from England on the Mayflower, but the fact certainly did not keep her in the land of her birth.

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    1. Hi Paula, thanks for sharing your line. Happy Reading!

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  17. Do you remember the song that Michael W. Smith wrote about Cassie Bernall? This is Your Time--such a powerful song.

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    1. I don't think I ever heard it. I'll have to give it a listen. Thanks for the tip!

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  18. I don't remember Columbine itself although I know what happened from sources such as the Michael Moore film. As a Brit, I find it incredible that so many Americans even want to have military-grade weapons in their homes. I can understand the point of view of those making a fortune from selling guns, but the ordinary people's attitude confuses me. Is everyone really so scared of their neighbours?

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    1. To be honest, at this point I have no idea. I feel like so much of this comes from the fact that the NRA and gun lobbyists have SO MUCH money that they keep pouring into electing those who will support them. The NRA does not care about these everyday people who own guns, they only care about making more money. I am not opposed to people owning guns, but clearly there are lines that need to be drawn and I am so sick of the Second Amendment being shouted about - the Founding Fathers were talking about muskets, not military grade weapons, and the fact that people even want them is sickening.

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