12 March 2019

American Tragedy

Twenty years ago next month, I was a single parent living on the opposite side of the Denver metro area from Littleton. My adopted kids were 15 and 13. Both were older and special needs when I adopted them. Both were in therapy and counseling nearly the entire time they lived with me. My son would be starting his first year of high school in the fall of 1999. My daughter was having enormous problems, and I'd pulled her out of school and was attempting to homeschool her while working a full-time job and a freelance job as a stringer with local newspapers.

My kids would help me take notes at high school football, basketball, volleyball, soccer and baseball games and track meets. We had front-row seats for state tournaments, and we covered every band, drill/dance team and drum line competition we could because both my kids wanted to participate in band when they reached high school.

I also interviewed seniors at each of 12 high schools on the north side of the metro area every spring for a special graduation publication. The interviews often would take place right around Take Your Child to Work Day, so I would take time off from my day job two or three days a year to visit the local high schools and alternate taking my kids on each day off. One of the most popular interviews at each of the high schools was the "miracle grad," the senior who was graduating against all odds, having overcome tremendous difficulties to achieve their diplomas. I wanted both of my kids to get a feel for high school, honor societies, valedictorians and most especially, the miracle grads.

Twenty years ago, those high school interviews were very different. The schools all were under heightened security because of the shooting at Columbine, a good 20 or so miles from us, and my son was begging me to homeschool him, too, because he no longer wanted to go to high school. He was terrified. Both my kids had become clingy, and both of them were acting out because they felt so insecure.

At one of the schools we visited that year, my son and I met the brother of one of the victims at Columbine. The boy's parents had transferred him to a religious school clear across town. Later, I would meet and befriend one of the survivors who was under the table in the Columbine library, her mom and several of her mom's friends. We go to church together.

In December 2013, several people in the office where I work rushed to Arapahoe High School in fear of a Columbine repeat, not knowing if they would ever see their children alive again. Two of my very dear friends, Mark and Lisa Sabey, were on site as well because their son attended Arapahoe. Read the account of their experience that day here.

Two of my loved ones have committed suicide, and another was brutally murdered at point blank range.

No one knows better than me how critical mental health care and intervention are before it is too late. I applaud Mark and Lisa for their herculean effort to heighten awareness and make a difference in our world first through goingsane.org and now through "American Tragedy."


  1. Awful experience all around. Being a parent and not knowing if your kids are safe would be horrifying. And any kid having to be in such an ordeal. Seen mental health up close too, sadly.

    1. Each time something like this happens, Pat, our national soul dies just a little bit more.


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You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

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