20th anniversary of Columbine
April 26, 2019
As the week of Columbine’s twentieth anniversary arrived, so did eighteen-year-old Sol Pais, a teen who was “infatuated” with the massacre.
Pais, who was accused of making threats to Columbine High School, prompted Denver metro schools to close, resulting in over 500,000 students staying home, due to safety concerns. Pais is on record of flying to Denver and adopting a gun for the sole reason of inciting another school shooting in the area.
Giovanni Bernal, junior and former HHS student, was one of the thousands of students whose school was closed due to the threats.
“It was a scary situation. It was a scenario made more realistic, because most of the school shootings are far away from wherever you’re living,” Bernal said. “Being in the same state and city as the first ever school shooting makes it feel more real that it actually happens not just a thing we hear about in the news every once in awhile and move on.”
Bernal’s current school in Denver is only 23 miles away from Columbine High School, which is roughly the same distance from HHS to Apple Valley High School.
“At the end of the day when we were released, we went from one cop on campus to about 8, and were advised to wait inside till apparent came or wait tat the bus stop with police near by,” Bernal said. “All the major school districts and counties had increased security at their schools. That’s when the feeling of danger was more present, and ‘more real’.”
Bernal had more thoughts on the surreal experience.
“On the 19th one day before the 20th anniversary of Columbine. My schools particularly had two lockouts/lockdowns within a school day,” Bernal said. “At our lunches, which is an open campus, it was forced to be closed campus, and if students left they had to be searched and some students weren’t even allowed back in. All of Denver’s public schools carried the same protocol.”
The Columbine massacre of 1999, one of the first and one of the largest school shootings on record, was perpetrated by then students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The event consisted of the murder of 15 people, including the perpetrators, including the additional 24 injured.
“As a community, it as scary time. Pais, the woman who wanted to cause more destruction, is gone so no new school shootings happened. Some people within the Denver school districts think that closing school and announcing it to the media was wrong, but others argue closing [schools] was the right decision to make, because the students and families would be safer at home then at school, being in potential danger,” Bernal said.
Despite this alarming time, Bernal believes the silver lining of it all was the community it brought together.
“Overall, it was a very stressful few days throughout the city, but we overcame it and are now back to normal, and the community handled it well,” Bernal said. “We just wanted to move on and get back to normal and be more at peace as a community.”
As the research on both Klebold and Harris and Pais, the similarities between them are distinct, as they both acquired their weapons legally, as there was no licensing required of guns used in Columbine. Although the threats by Pais never amounted to school violence, both her and Klebold kept journals of the homicidal goals they hoped to accomplish.
In addition, with Pais, Klebold and Harris alike, put an end to their ranges and potential actions with their own self-inflicted deaths.
As the nation reflected on the Columbine massacre and others like it, the topic of gun control and the potential new policies that may surround it, continue to be an ongoing discussion within the government, the nation and within the walls of HHS.