Five years ago today, our world changed forever.
On April 20, 1999, two students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. with guns, bombs and hearts imprisoned by hate. Laughing as they fired their weapons, they killed 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives.
Since that fateful day, there have been many changes in our schools. One of the most noticeable, even in our small community, is the ever-increasing emphasis on campus security. Throughout the world, schools have added fences, campus police or security officers, routine locker and backpack searches, photo I.D. badges, surveillance cameras, additional exit doors, and even metal detectors.
All these things are being done in an effort to prevent another Columbine tragedy.
But perhaps, on this anniversary, we would be better served to evaluate what changes we can make in our own lives to prevent such hatred in the hearts of others.
According to reports, both Klebold and Harris struggled with feelings of not belonging. They looked different, they felt different, and they were treated different.
But how different were they really?
Whether child or adult, all any of us really want is to feel accepted and be special to someone.
What's happening in our society that so many children seek the acceptance of gangs or the company of drugs and alcohol? These are substitutes for the real power of family and community acceptance.
We live in a world that pressures parents to spend more time at work to provide basic needs or to reach for the golden ring of affluence. Too often, our children are placed in the back seat of family priorities and many are falling out unnoticed.
Perhaps you know young people like Klebold and Harris. Their clothes or hair may be different from yours. They might wear dark makeup under their eyes. They might appear very shy or quiet, often looking down or away. When you ask them a question, you might wonder why they don't just speak up and tell you what they need or what's on their mind.
It saddens me to hear children making fun of other children because they dress differently or don't look like other children. It saddens me more when I see their parents set this example.
When I look at young people who seem lost or withdrawn, I try to remember that no matter how they look, this is somebody's child.
But when they feel unaccepted, teased or bullied, it can quickly erase any feelings of love or acceptance from anyone.
On this anniversary of Columbine, I hope that we can all look beyond the outside shell of others we think are different from ourselves. I hope we teach our children and grandchildren the eternal principles of love, patience and charity.
I'm sorry we've lost so many of our children to a world filled with violence and hate. I'm sorry we need metal detectors at our schools and airports.
At times I feel helpless to make a difference.
But then I think of how one person who really cared made a difference in my life.