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Gazette Premium Content Colorado on the Web: Lessons of Columbine strengthen community

by Dalton Walker dalton.walker@gazette.com - Updated: April 24, 2014 at 10:30 am

For some in Colorado, April 20 is not known for marijuana.

April 20 is a harsh reminder of one of the most infamous days in Colorado history. Fifteen years ago this month, Columbine High School was attacked by two teenagers who killed 12 fellow students and a teacher and injured almost two dozen others before taking their own lives.

Colorado knows that horrific story, and the rest of the country knows it as well. It's a dark day many try to forget but can't.

Denver resident and filmmaker Sam Granillo is one of them. I've never met Granillo, but he has my utmost respect.

Granillo dedicated 10 days recently to a remarkable journey across the country. Granillo was a junior at Columbine when the shooting happened.

Now 32, Granillo recently visited sites of other school shootings and met with survivors as part of a healing process. "Dateline NBC" chronicled his journey and shared it Sunday, 15 years after the Columbine attack. Granillo is also working on a documentary called "Columbine: Wounded Minds."

One of Granillo's stops was northern Minnesota's Red Lake Indian Reservation, where I grew up and graduated from high school in 2000.

I used to love the month of March. It's nationally known for my favorite sport, basketball, and in Minnesota it's usually around the time of year it finally begins to get warm.

Now I dread March, like many others back home. March 21 is a date many of us try not to think about. On the morning of March 21, 2005, a 16-year-old fatally shot his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend, then took his grandfather's vehicle and drove to Red Lake High School and opened fire. The final death toll was 10, including the teen, who took his own life.

At the time, I was attending college out of state. I returned a day after the shooting, not only as a grieving tribal member, but as a journalist.

Nine years later, covering the aftermath of the Red Lake shooting is still my most difficult assignment, full of memories I can't forget.

I didn't lose any family members that March day, but as a tribal community, we felt like we lost everything.

March 21, 2014, came and went, with little media coverage of what had happened at Red Lake High nine years ago. Many prefer it that way. Others, similar to some Columbine survivors and family of lost loved ones, cherish that date because it was the last day they saw a loved one alive.

My story doesn't compare to Granillo's. I admire his work and can't imagine the emotions he went through at each stop.

In Red Lake, Granillo visited Justin Jourdain, another man for whom I have the utmost respect.

Jourdain was 15 when the shooting happened. The two survivors shared a touching moment during "Dateline's" telecast.

Granillo held a school door shut when a killer tried to get into the room, and six years later, Jourdain did the same thing in Red Lake.

Both men are heroes.

Red Lake High School and Columbine High School share a bond that goes beyond school shootings.

A group of Columbine High students visited Red Lake after the shooting and gave a dream catcher to the community.

In 2012, Jourdain and other tribal members drove across the country to Newtown, Conn., to support a community grieving from a mass shooting at an elementary school.

Jourdain delivered the dream catcher to Newtown with a special message from his people: "May this dream catcher never have to travel again."

For more on Granillo's journey, and to watch the "Dateline" videos, visit my blog.

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Have a Colorado on the Web idea? Send me an email at dalton.walker@gazette.com or tweet @GazetteDalton

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