Special 10th Anniversary Edition


A "PAT" on the Back for
the Columbine Families

by Dianne Sundet

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Prayer, appreciation, and trust can make a difference in time of tragedy as well as our lives and the lives of those who come behind us.

April 20, 1999 has come and gone, and here it is ten years later. A lot of water has gone under the bridge. The landscape of our lives was changed that day and continues to change as we become more and more of what our heavenly Father desires that we become as a result of what took place on that date.

Twelve students and one teacher from Columbine High School lost their lives that day. They left behind a legacy that continues to be a part of all of our lives. What can those of us who were left behind learn from this tragedy? What can future generations learn from us after the fact? The questions that we have outnumber any answers that we can provide. Perhaps lessons beyond what we've often heard proposed over the years can be sifted from the Columbine tragedy—lessons that I believe can impart healing and love within our community, which can possibly even play a role in helping prevent such things from happening again.

PAT is an acronym for Prayer, Appreciation, and Trust. It is also a system that I originally created to become a portion of a speech that I once gave in Toastmasters in how to deal with unexplained and unexpected tragedies.

Prayer has its place in all of our lives in both the good times as well as the bad. It is not an exercise, nor is it a ritual. It is a two way conversation, a personal connection and communication between whom we pray to and us. Prayer gives each of us the opportunity to step outside our self imposed boundaries and comfort zones. Praying for others, especially during a tragic time, gives us the opportunity to serve others in a powerful way. Praying for those individuals who were directly as well as indirectly affected by the Columbine school shootings has become an important part of my life. It has broadened my boundaries and given me the opportunity to be of service to others in time of need.

Appreciation is a word and concept that we as individuals do not use and practice as much as we should. The people who I admire and hold in high honor and appreciation are the surviving parents and loved ones of individuals who have lost their lives in the Columbine tragedy. With a quiet dignity, each of the families who lost a loved one have not allowed this untimely tragedy to destroy them. I can only admire them and say, "thank you for showing the rest of us how to live in spite of your grief and pain." The lessons that they have been learning are lessons that the rest of us can learn from and incorporate into our own lives. With actions and attitudes that speak louder than any words could, the Columbine community of survivors is showing the rest of us how to live our lives in the face of tragedy.

"Good can come from bad,
just as much as
empathy and care for others,
can come from experiencing a tragedy."

Trust is a word that is often misunderstood especially when a senseless and unexplainable tragedy takes place. Ripple effects of the tragedy are often times felt years after the tragedy takes place especially if the grief is still fresh. Trusting someone else in the aftermath of a tragedy is not an easy task to undertake or even wrap your arms around. Trust must be child like and involves having a confident and firm belief in the reliability, honesty, and integrity of that person. Trusting someone who is bigger, wiser, stronger, and more powerful than we are also gives us the opportunity to believe that something good can come out of a tragedy.

In spite of the fact that the Columbine school shootings were tragic and unexplainable, those of us who were left behind can all learn and grow from it. Good can come from bad, just as much as empathy and care for others, can come from experiencing a tragedy.

Through my small connection with the Columbine community (having had the opportunity to work indirectly with the father of one of the students as well as meeting a mother who lost a child at Columbine), has helped me to understand that something good can come as a result of such a senseless tragedy.

None of us will ever forget that early spring day in April 1999. Prayer, appreciation, and trust can make a difference in time of tragedy as well as our lives and the lives of those who come behind us. Let’s take whatever lessons we have learned and the experiences that we have had as a result of this tragedy combined with "PAT" and make a difference in our lives and the lives of others—one person at a time.

This is Dianne’s first article for LFC. She is a semi-native of Colorado and is a member of Galilee Baptist Church. She has been an active member of Toastmasters for 17 years and recently retired from Colorado State Government with 35 years of service. She would like to write a book of her life experiences and hopes to find creative and different ways in which she can be of service to others.


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