How a little place in the Denver suburbs moved me to tears.
I’ve just been in Denver for a few days on a short business trip. Today was my last day in the city and after I left the office, my drive took me through the smart upmarket suburb of Littleton. I’ve been to Littleton once before on my last business trip to Denver, but at the time I hadn’t realised it was right next to the suburb of Columbine. For those of you that are too young to remember, Columbine has a very tragic story – in April 1999 two ex-student rampaged through the local High School with various weapons and bombs in what was one of the worst High School shootings in history. Twelve students and one teacher lost their lives and the lessons learned from the tragedy became the catalyst for changes to the way authorities deal with such incidents.
I had been told about a memorial there in the Robert F. Clement park, which sits alongside the main road that runs past the the columbine High School. Out of curiosity, as I was driving past the school I decided to take a short detour into the park to take a look.
The memorial itself is a quiet and thought-provoking place. It sits tucked away on the edge of a higher mound only a few hundred yards from the High School. The mound partially hides it from view from the far side of the park and the school and seems to enclose it in a protective way. It is designed as two almost concentric circles. An inner circle is set with thirteen huge marble plaques, each with a memorial to the victims written by their families. On the outer perimeter, the site is enclosed by a ‘wall of healing’ made from local red rocks, and inset with more plaques displaying quotes and thoughts from survivors and relatives of those that died.
The thought of school age kids becoming victims of mass murder is of course sickening to everyone and I had expected to be moved by a memorial to such a horrific event. However, as I wandered through the site reading the touching tributes and messages from parents, friends and staff, I actually felt myself welling up inside, which rather caught me off guard. It is clear that this beautifully tended community funded project is a very special place indeed. I don’t know if it was the image of the personal messages carved into the stone, or the sound of the flowing water from the six waterfalls, or the neatly laid our flower gardens, but there is a palpable energy here that speaks of love and hope – a force for good.
As I read more, I found myself reflecting not only about this tragedy, but also others where children have been victims. It was as if the circular design of the place acted as some sort of memorial lens or focal point. Very strange.
Tears notwithstanding, I’m glad I took the time to stop and pay a visit. It is a beautiful and peaceful place that is quite hidden in the park. I doubt many people outside of the the Greater Denver area know it exists – I certainly didn’t.
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