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Columbine High School Massacre

It took me 20 years to finally talk about surviving the Columbine High School shooting

On April 20, 1999, I was a 14-year-old freshman at Columbine High School. The events of that day have shaped my life ever since.

Laura Farber
Opinion contributor

On April 20, 1999, I took cover along with several friends under a cafeteria table at , in听Littleton, 91影视, while two heavily armed shooters killed 12 of my fellow students, one of my teachers听and wounded over 20 others.

It has taken me nearly 20 years to want to talk about it .

I've found that even the survivors of that day don't talk about the event itself. We don鈥檛 need to; we know what the other person is feeling and we don鈥檛 need to relive it.

And with the that erupted after the tragedy, many of us did not feel comfortable opening up to a journalist or interviewer. Major news media only had part of the Columbine story: the headlines. It was so much more than that to us 鈥 it was more than death, fear听and trauma. We felt like it was Columbine versus the world.

Stepping back to 1999

It took me nearly 20 years, but I finally began opening up to the friends I was with that day. I on a documentary of the shooting in 2012 and reconnected with my high school building and classmates.听I was surprised by their feelings of fear, guilt, anger, and their need for predictability and stability in their lives. We shared our instinct for always knowing where our exits were, should we need to remove ourselves from stressful situations.

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In 1999, I was a 14-year-old freshman. I was concerned with getting to my classes on time, doing my homework听and picking out my outfit for the day; I expected to eat lunch and go back to class. When all that changed, I had a hard time understanding what was happening. I initially thought it was an outsider who brought a gun to our school听because I couldn鈥檛 comprehend how or why anyone would want to hurt so many people. School is supposed to be a safe place; I was supposed to go to class and take a test. It all seemed so innocent.

The author in her sophomore-year high school yearbook photo in Littleton, 91影视, in 2000.

In the aftermath, I was very hard on myself for the feelings I was experiencing and how I thought I should be acting. I felt pressure to talk about what that day was like for me and I didn鈥檛 want to. I felt anxiety because I wasn鈥檛 able to focus on homework assignments, but still had to keep my grades up. I was angry that so many of my classmates and my teacher lost their lives in an instant. I was alive, yet I was scared and anxious that everyone around me was hurting听and still knew that we had to find a way to move on.听

Talk through the trauma

I used to compare my trauma levels to my friends鈥 trauma levels.听I assumed that because I was in the cafeteria听鈥 not the听library or a classroom听鈥斕齩r I didn鈥檛 hear any gunshots, then my trauma was not as bad as theirs. The reality is that the students who attended听Columbine High School听all had a shared trauma, even though we were all in different places听that day.

Over the years, I realized I had not really committed to understanding my own feelings, and how this event affects my day to day, even after all this time. During and after the filming of my documentary, I began attending therapy. Professional help and听my friends' reactions and validation听allowed me to admit to myself I was a trauma survivor听and that my feelings and actions are consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.听Even today, the sound of gunshots is a trigger for me. Finally admitting this and discussing it were the key to my recovery.

I wanted to reach trauma survivors of all kinds, and to help them and the Columbine community find a听way听to move through and beyond this traumatic event. The听film I made about my process is named after our school pride chant, in use before April 20, 1999, but one that has taken on much greater significance in the years since: 鈥淲e Are Columbine.鈥

We are Columbine. We are survivors, students, teachers, professionals, mothers听and fathers. We will be forever shaped by what we experienced that day, but we won't let it define us. And by finally talking about it, we found a way to heal.

is a documentary filmmaker. In 2012, Farber launched Lioness Productions and "We Are Columbine" is her听feature documentary directorial debut.

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