In their rage, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bent on destroying Columbine High and with it the community of Littleton, Colo., from which they felt so tragically alienated. Mercifully, they failed, as was so clearly demonstrated by the 70,000 mourners who gathered in a movie-house parking lot on April 25 to honor the 13 dead—12 students and one teacher. The words of remembrance that day could not be silenced by any bullet or pipe bomb. As the Reverend Franklin Graham, who flew in from Wilkesboro, N.C., put it in his invocation, “The forces of hate and violence must not be allowed to gain.” Still, the teenage killers did make a nation fear for its children. “These kids who were murdered woke up in the morning, had breakfast, said they loved their parents and went to school,” says Chuck Blaskovich, 47, a neighbor of 15-year-old victim Daniel Mauser. “Then they went to the library.” On the following pages, PEOPLE looks at the lives lost that day and revisits some survivors whose images were flashed to the world on the day of the shooting.


According to witnesses in the Columbine High library, one of the teenage killers put a gun to junior Cassie Bernall’s head. “Do you believe in God?” he demanded. “Yes, I believe in God,” she responded firmly. Then the gunman shot her in the head, killing her. “There was a reason that Cassie died, and that was because she loved the Lord. This is what Cassie was being prepared for,” says her father, Bradley Bernall, a devout Christian like his daughter. “This was her mission.”

The center of her life was the West Bowles Community Church, where she attended Bible study four or five times weekly and was active in the youth group. Cassie often received compliments for her long, straight blonde hair, but she recently told a friend she wanted to cut it. “She said she would make it into a wig and give it to some little kid who lost their hair from chemotherapy,” friend Sara Houy, 16, says of Cassie, whose brother Chris, 15, is a Columbine freshman. “I know she is in a better place. She died for what she believed in.”


Her middle name was Joy, and junior Rachel Scott’s many friends think of that as her epitaph. The third of five children, she was outgoing, vivacious and deeply religious. “She loved acting,” says Sarah Arzola, 16, who appeared in a performance with Scott last year and soon became her close friend. For Christmas, Scott gave Arzola a key chain with matching heart halves. “She would say, ‘I’m the Mary, you’re the Rhoda,’ ” Arzola recalls.

Scott lived with her mother, administrative assistant Beth Nimmo, 46, and four siblings. She worked at a sandwich shop and did well in the classes she liked, such as forensics, a combination of public speaking and debate. Scott once taped a whimsical message—since erased—on her family’s answering machine: “You’ve reached the residence of Queen Rachel and her servants, Larry, Beth, Dana, Craig and Michael,” she said. “If you have anything you’d like them to do for me, please leave a message.” Now, her mom says, “I’d give anything to have that message again.”


Isaiah Shoels faced challenges most kids never have to deal with. When he underwent heart surgery at 7 months to repair a malformed valve in his left ventricle, doctors warned that he might not live past age 5. Instead, Shoels went on to play in a youth football league and to wrestle for Columbine, lifting weights to pack 120 pounds of solid muscle onto his diminutive 4’11” frame. “He took those stumbling blocks and made stepping stones out of them,” says his father, Michael, who owns a small record company.

As one of 16 African-Americans at Columbine, Shoels, a senior—and others of his five siblings—had heard the occasional racial taunt, and it seems to have been his color that marked him for death. “They targeted Isaiah,” says his father, who heard from eyewitnesses how his son died. “When they ran into the school, they started hollering, ‘Where’s that little n—-r?’ ” After they found Shoels in the library, they shot him in the head. “Isaiah was color-blind,” says his father.


Kyle Velasquez had transferred to Columbine from a Denver high school only three months ago and had nothing to do with the cliques whose antagonism may have fed the rage of the gunmen. “Kyle always accepted everyone for who they were,” says his mother, Phyllis. “He was not judgmental.” A bespectacled six-footer who weighed 220 pounds—”our gentle giant,” his father, Al, calls him—Velasquez spent his free time on the library computers. Says Rudy Martin, a Columbine teacher: “The irony of it is he was just starting to make friends.” The night before he died, Velasquez, a sophomore, had been polishing his résumé so that he could apply for a job at a local supermarket. Beyond that, he envisioned a career in either law enforcement or the military—like his father, a Navy veteran. Al, who shared with Kyle a passion for Denver’s pro sports teams, says, “We were always together.”


At the moment when he could have run for his life, Dave Sanders ran instead toward the gunfire. Hearing the sound of shooting, the popular business teacher, who also coached girls’ basketball and softball, raced from the faculty lounge to the cafeteria, where he jumped onto a chair and shouted to the more than 300 students to get down and take cover. “I truly believe he saved my life and the lives of many other people,” freshman Lindsey Dowling, 15, said at his April 26 memorial service.

A native of Newtown, Ind., Sanders started at Columbine in 1975. It was the only teaching job he ever held—or wanted. Over the years, the twice-married father of four daughters and grandfather of five children became a fixture at the school. On his last day, after clearing out the cafeteria, he ran toward the library but was gunned down on the way and died three hours later as students struggled to Save him. “As soon as I heard one of the teachers went to protect the kids, I knew it was Dave,” says friend Greg Lighty. “He always did the right thing.”


John Tomlin was an old-fashioned kid who wore his values on his sleeve—and on the dashboard of his prized gold ’85 Chevy pickup, where he kept his Bible. The Columbine sophomore had worked at a local nursery to earn the $3,000 to buy his truck; after graduation, he planned to enter the Army, where he felt women didn’t belong, and he believed in abstinence before marriage. “He never let me pay for a thing,” recalled girlfriend Michelle Oetter, who met Tomlin at a church function seven months ago. “He treated me like a queen.” “No wonder he was always broke,” joked his father, John, drawing laughter amid the tears. What did his mother, Doreen, want the world to remember about the oldest of her three children? “That he loved the Lord, that he wanted to live his life for Christ.” Added his father: “And he was a good son. He was just good.”


Sophomore Matt Kechter had big plans for his junior year. A 6-foot, 215-lb. offensive lineman on the varsity football team—and a straight-A student in the classroom—Kechter was determined to crack the Columbine Rebels starting lineup in the fall. “He was on track,” says family friend Mike Mesch, who coached Kechter in junior high. “He was big and strong and loved charging out of that huddle.”

Kechter was the kind of son football-loving parents dream of. His father, construction supervisor Joseph Kechter, 42, never missed a game, and Ann, 40, his mother, organized the team’s year-end party. His only sibling, Adam, 12, idolized him. In death, Matt was reportedly found in the library with his arms around another student. “He was protecting someone,” says Mesch. “That was Matt.”


On the day he died, junior Corey DePooter had planned to go to the bank with his father to get a loan for a used car he’d picked out. “It was a Mustang, and he was real excited,” says Neal DePooter, 45. As a condition for getting the car, his parents, who also have a daughter, Jena, 15, asked that Corey—an avid fisherman and hunter—keep his grades up. “That was the reason he was in the library,” says his father. Corey kept his cool as students dove for cover. “Even under that table,” friend Austin Eubanks told The Denver Post, “he wasn’t afraid.”


On the volleyball court, where she reigned as team captain, 5’11” senior Lauren Townsend was known for her graceful style and mean spike. At the animal shelter where she worked after school, she had a distinctively gentle way with the frisky inmates, whom she fed, bathed and exercised. (Her own pride and joy was a small Yorkshire terrier named Bailey.) And at Columbine, where her 4.0 grade point average had earned her President Clinton’s Award for Education Excellence and membership in the National Honor Society, she was a leading contender to be one of the Class of ’99’s valedictorians.

Townsend planned to work as a technician this summer on a research trip to South America. In the fall, the future wildlife-biology major would have entered Colorado State University on an academic scholarship. But for all of Townsend’s accomplishments, what schoolmates remember best was the force of her personality. “She had a huge effect on everyone,” a teacher told her parents and three older siblings. “There’s a lot of Lauren in that whole school.”


A Star Wars buff from early childhood, Steven could recite from memory every line in each of the films and was counting the days until the May 19 release of the latest in the series. “He collected the books, watched all the movies and had all the video games,” says an uncle, Richard Brandenburger. The freshman, whose sister Nancy is 20, dreamed of flying Navy F-16s and loved soccer. “When he kicked the ball, it was like a rocket coming at you,” the family said in a prepared statement. “It’s hard to imagine life without him.”


Born with a jaw that was too small and complications that made it impossible to breathe through her nose, sophomore Kelly Fleming had struggled through life. “She was always behind physically with her age group,” says her father, Donald, 43, manager of a printing company. But that was starting to change. Just a few months ago, she had her wisdom teeth, tonsils and adenoids removed in anticipation of surgery this summer to correct the problem. The whole process was to have been completed by Christmas. “Dad, I’m going to start running next year,” she recently told her father, “because I’ll be able to breathe.”

A shy girl who was a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and Britney Spears, Fleming—whose older sister Erin is 18—expressed herself by writing short stories she would sometimes submit to teen magazines. “Writing was a source of comfort to her,” says Donald. Many of the stories had a dark side, but they always ended on an upbeat note, says her mother, Diedra, 43. “She was able to see evil in the world and didn’t know how to combat it,” says her father, “because she truly was a defenseless, innocent kid.”


Snapshots show a blond, brown-eyed boy who loved to hike and ski. Sophomore Daniel Mauser was “gentle, well-mannered,” says his father, Tom Mauser—a boy who wasn’t “at all afraid to hug his parents.” Tom, a state transportation department manager, and Linda, a homemaker, say their only son (daughter Christine is 13) had put off getting his learner’s permit until this summer in order to concentrate on classes. A current-affairs buff, Daniel was concerned about the proliferation of guns in this country. He was known as a peacemaker. “He was the mediator. The other kids would get upset, and he would be the in-between guy,” says neighbor Chuck Blaskovich.


He was one of those rare teenagers who obviously enjoyed spending time with his parents. “Work was fun for him,” says best friend and fellow freshman Matt Houck, 14, of Rohrbough’s job at the electronics store owned by his father, Brian, 40, “because he really enjoyed being around his dad.” Says Dan’s mother, real estate agent Sue Petrone, 39, now divorced from his father: “If you were upset about something, he would sit down and put his arm around you and rub your back.”

During the shootings, Dan held open a door so that others could escape. “I don’t know how I’m going to live without him,” says Andrew, 13, a surviving sibling along with Matt, 21, and Nichole, 17.

Thomas Fields-Meyer, Bill Hewitt, Patrick Rogers, Jill Smolowe

Reported by: Ken Baker, Vickie Bane, Lorenzo Benet, Michael Haederle and Bob Stewart in Littleton, Elizabeth McNeil in Los Angeles and John Slania in Chicago

You May Like