Reliving Columbine, reaching out in grief

Posted: July 22, 2012

The movie theater massacre that took place in Aurora, Colo., early Friday morning unfolded about 15 miles from the scene of the Columbine High School shootings.

Residents of Littleton, Colo., who lived through that 1999 rampage were badly shaken Friday by news of the latest bloodshed. The shooting at a midnight screening of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, killed 12 people and injured 58. The Columbine shooting killed 12 students and one teacher; the two gunmen took their own lives as well.

Littleton knows all too well the shock and grief that now faces Aurora. Already, some residents had begun reaching out to help the nearby community walk the same sad path that lies ahead.

"I just don't think they know what is ahead for them," Kelli Narde, communications director for the City of Littleton, said Friday. "Just the sheer magnitude of the tragedy, the community grief, the why of it all," she said. "It's going to stick with them for a while."

Narde said she woke up as usual Friday morning and started to go about her day. "I got up at 6 and turned up the TV and got the newspaper like I always do," Narde said. Then she heard the chilling words coming from the TV.

"I froze. I was just frozen. My heart . . . has been racing all morning," Narde said.

"I was here for Columbine. I grew up in Aurora. I worked at that mall [where the movie theater shooting took place] when I was a teenager," she said. The shooting scenes are just about 15 to 20 miles away, she said.

"I'm kind of at a loss for words. I think we all are."

Narde was working for the City of Littleton, Colo., when the April 20, 1999, shootings took place at nearby Columbine High School. Two students - Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold - opened fire, killing 13 and injuring two dozen others before taking their own lives.

Narde said that after she composed herself Friday morning, she immediately contacted Aurora city government officials to tell them that the community of Littleton was standing ready to help and was willing to offer guidance based on its own experiences.

Throughout Littleton, the shootings - and their familiarity - dominated everyone's thoughts and conversations, she said.

The community of Aurora, she said, could expect to feel waves of shock, grief, anger, and despair in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

She encouraged the community's residents to band together as much as possible, to express their grief.

"I think that people will feel the need to come together to share their shock, their grief, their emotions," she said. "Whatever helps people feel better - mental-health counseling, prayer services, community events to remember the victims."

She said the community could expect to feel an unbelievable sense of helplessness.

"Many of these victims, presumably, are young people. That just makes it all the more tragic," she said.

"They'll have a long road ahead of them."

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