JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — From the top of this hill, you can hear them.
Bats ping and balls clop on the nearby dirt fields of the Columbine High School baseball and softball teams. The young athletes sprint out plays.
In the distance, skateboard wheels glide and scrape around a small skate park. Occasionally, boarders skid and crash. And then, they get up again.
“It’s so full of life here,” Rick Townsend, whose daughter Lauren was killed in the shooting nearly 20 years ago, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Just behind him sits the school. And at the base of the hill where he stands sits the Columbine Memorial.
The memorial is a small, paved park. There is a water feature near the entrance, but it’s off right now, since this part of Colorado typically sees snow in March.
In the center, a circle of plaques names every victim. And on each plaque, stories about the victim’s life and personality — or quotes from high-school diary entries — are etched into stone.
Steps out from the center circle, on a surrounding wall, carefully curated quotes from survivors, teachers, parents and former President Bill Clinton make the tragedy impossible to forget.
“I think Columbine was a real watershed moment for this whole country, and maybe even for a lot of parts of the world,” Townsend said. “For me, I come out here because — I know what’s on the plaque for Lauren and I knew Lauren, but I didn’t know any of the other kids. And it reminds me of how much was really lost then.”
The memorial took about eight years to create. An initial two-year delay came when Townsend and other parents pooled their energy into rebuilding the school library, where most of the victims were killed, so current and future students would have a safe and positive space to learn.
The latter six years comprised many meetings and fundraisers. Perhaps it could have taken less time, but, as with other memorials, there was no rush.
“I was involved some in the memorial, but a lot of families just couldn’t do it and didn’t have any desire to,” Townsend said. “But they wanted to make sure that everybody was represented correctly, that everybody was in agreement with what they were saying about their child or their husband or their father. And for that reason, they wanted to wait until everybody was ready to talk about it.”
The final result pleased everyone.
“What happened in Las Vegas is tough, but you need to be sensitive to all the families that are involved,” Townsend said. “You want to have it reflect them as much as you can. So pay attention to them. Take your time.”
Columbine High School shooting
Date: April 20, 1999
Twelve students and one teacher were killed when two senior students opened fire inside Columbine High School, located in unincorporated Jefferson County, Colorado, near Denver. Most were killed in the school library. Twenty-four others were injured in the attack. The gunmen killed themselves.