Special 10th Anniversary Edition

"We need and must start filming the new chapter to this story. Some would say Iím making this stand ten years too late. I would say itís never too late to find ways to keep kids strong, alive and full of hope."

"The blood from the Columbine Massacre will never completely wash off our hurting hearts. What must be done is taking action against giving the murder and mayhem any kind of foothold in our psyche."


Ten years. One hundred and twenty months. Three thousand six hundred and fifty two days. It has been that long since April 20, 1999. The clock would click over to 11:21am Mountain Standard Time and bring with it the event that changed everything. The date and time cannot be said without chills running down the full length of my spine with the force of an unhinged sledgehammer. It is a unique event to have witnessed and experienced. You could call the last ten years extended therapy.

When I graduated high school in 2001, I was looking forward. Getting away. Making the world my own and breaking through on whatever stage I could find. In those ensuing months I found myself involved with the Lullaby for Columbine Project writing a monthly column entitled, "Teen Talk". I was taking a message to the teen population of the day. My first column talked about love and the desperate need for it within the hallways of our schools.

It was in this column that I brought to bear the confession that I related to Harris and Klebold. I opened up about the fact that suicide had indeed been part of my plans. Just graduated from Littleton High School, I wrote these words, "Three years of middle school were my years of torture. I even considered suicide because of all the comments that came my way. Why? Because I had nothing to live for."

As time went on I tried to write words that would reach out to someone. I hoped that whatever drivel my hands tapped across the keyboard would prove useful to someone out there in the world. My last column was one of resignation to the fact that I was growing older and farther away from the generation I was supposed to be speaking words of wisdom to. My last paragraphs were spent pleading with those that read the words to see the change in the world and move quickly to enable the transformation needed before it was too late. I feared there would be more Columbine style attacks.

I was mostly right. In the last ten years school attacks have increased. Virginia Tech brought back many memories on April 16, 2007. I wonít lie to you. It was a hard week or so as the news played across television screens and blogs the worldwide. The feelings returned, the memories bubbled up from my stomach as if threatening to send me running to the bathroom. Here in the present there have been several incidents of people being gunned down in a school and a church. Alabama was shocked with a terrible shooting. The picture I paint is fairly bleak.

I naively thought when I filed my final column with the LFC project five years ago that I would get better at getting over Columbine. I expected the emotions would fade with time as I distracted myself with the pursuit of The American Dream. I donít think Iíve ever been so wrong in my life.

In ten years dreams change. I once wanted to be a police officer. That never came together. There was also this idea that I would be an English teacher in high school so as to help steer future generations down the path of goodness and light. File that under non-starter. I ended up working through the call center world first as an agent then trainer overseas and then back home to be a supervisor.

In ten years you find your body changes on you. I had a stroke on April 9, 2008 which brought everything I knew about life to a complete halt. Revaluating my future, I decided to seek something better and ended up in middle management with a behemoth of a healthcare related industry.

Through all this I was still ignoring my emotions from Columbine. I had suppressed them. Shut them away. Refused to think about it. If I did, I barely touched the surface in blogs, keeping my emotions to turmoil ridden heart.

Over the last ten years Iíve written, video blogged, spoken and even done an online radio show about the subject. I donít think Iíve made the progress I had hoped for and in some ways thatís a pleasant surprise. Odd to say "pleasant" in an essay about Columbine.

Part of the human condition is that we all carry baggage. Emotional, physical and even spiritual. It makes up who we are. It affects how we interact and how we deal. Each of us has moments of pain that riddle our hearts like the pockmarked moon. I used to think that having Columbine in my experiences was a liability.

Something that would cripple my well-being and state of mind. Something that if given the chance would haunt me until my last days like a ball and chain. I secretly feared this for many years and up until the last few weeks I was growing concerned about the roiling emotions due to burst from the depths.

Then something happened that changed everything. It wasnít a thrilling moment where the camera slowly zoomed out to a soaring operatic score. It was a simple reminder that my experiences in middle school and years later Columbine were not in vain.

Columbine is what spurred me to being more active in church and youth. Iíll admit Iíve faded in the last few years as the distance from those days grows. This moment brought chastisement and guilt to my heart for losing that spark. In our small groups in junior high church we were having a discussion about God and how we use his name. In turn, the conversation steered towards how we act towards those around us. The question was posed, "Does that indeed show someone your faith and Godís love?"

The answers were devastating. Stories of a more or less Emo/Goth/Whatever girl who acted out and didnít really have friends. Everyone avoided her like the plague, including those in the small group. Each student shared their story of someone who was alone in different ways. I found my heart aching for each story. I was that kid in middle school. The one that was the constant target of just about everyone. And so alone.

I even wrote a short story where I took my anger out on those that had caused me the greatest pain. It was fairly violent. I distinctly remember naming my main attacker. His name was Robert Orth. In my fictional world, I took him to the edge of death. The writing didnít scare me. It thrilled me. To this day when I relieve this terrible tale I feel such guilt about thinking and writing those words.

How far was I from doing something like Harris and Klebold? Itís an honest question Iíve been trying to answer since Columbine. I still havenít decided on an answer but I do know this: Iíve been carrying around the grudge against Robert for far too long. Itís taken ten plus years, but I think itís time.

I forgive you Robert Orth. I know kids do stupid things. Horrible things. Sometimes weíre so blinded by the small microcosm of the world around us that we donít see the simple way out of the cycle of crazy weíre stuck on. It was odd at the time but years later I would find out you had gone on to do good things in life and finding your way. I can only hope and pray things are still all right with you and yours.

Back at my church with my small group I stood with all these images and thoughts racing through my mind. How best to take the lessons of yesterday into the world of today? It was hard, but I broached how I was like that girl and that guy in middle school. I urged them to do what was right. Saying hi. Taking a step to reach out. Doing something versus nothing.

Do I think the troubled kids in their school are apt to replay Harris and Klebold? I donít know. I do know that suicide is a very real threat to the youth of today. I do know theyíre facing struggles and internal tug of war like no generation has seen previous. Iím not sure I could even make a complete list of everything they face on just one page. I do know there are hearts and mind in need.

Seven years ago I wrote my first column with the message, "Donít leave anyone behind; donít let them fall into the cracks. You have the power to prevent another Columbine. Be a friend to someone. Be a listener to someone. Be a hugger to someone. Be something to someone so they know they are accepted." Perhaps I was naïve in thinking this would solve all the troubles that Columbine exposed within that school and hundreds nationwide. Iím still convinced that what I wrote is a part of a larger patchwork solution.

My last column closed with a last desperate plea to the readers. I will make a similar pitch all these years later. Ten years later we need to stop watching the tapes of Columbine. The events are not in question. The actions of two heartless murderers cannot be refuted. The blood from the Columbine Massacre will never completely wash off our hurting hearts. What must be done is taking action against giving the murder and mayhem any kind of foothold in our psyche. Celebrate the lives and the journey each has taken in changing lives worldwide. Create or join projects and groups to fight against the darkness that haunts our students.

We need and must start filming the new chapter to this story. Some would say Iím making this stand ten years too late. I would say itís never too late to find ways to keep kids strong, alive and full of hope.

If we wait, pause or otherwise step away, the ending of this tale will be something none of us want to read. It is within each of our hands.

Please help me change the plot. We are the only one who can.


Aaron DeLay is a self professed/confessed nerd with a side of geek who has a unhealthy love of being creative. He writes blogs, records video blogs, creatively writes fiction and twitters all the day long
about life and the pursuits. He thanks God each and every day for giving him some kind of talent, becaue otherwise he'd be nothing.

Aaron has worked in Children's Ministry and Youth Ministry in the metro area as a volunteer for ten years and wouldn't have it any other way. God's just that cool.

Currently single, he lives in Denver, CO and loves the Mile High City something fierce. He works in the service industry as a mild mannered manager with dreams of someday making the big time and managing even more people.

He blogs at http://www.aarondelay.com and even twitters to the world at http://www.twitter.com/aarondelay. Having experienced a stroke last April, he also does video blogs to his far-flung parents about his recovery and the day to day events around him . Watch him be crazy at http://youtube.com/theaarondelay. If you want to say hello,
feel free to email him at theaarondelay@gmail.com.


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