I remember exactly where I was on April 20, 1999, when I first heard about the siege and massacre at Columbine High School. Sitting in my high rise apartment studying for an Econ midterm the next day, I turned on CNN and spent the rest of the day transfixed to the television, watching the images that soon became all too familiar -- the wounded student climbing out a window, the pack of high schoolers running from the school with their hands up above their heads. I remember watching a funeral a few days later for one of the 13 people killed by Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold. I remember the interviews with the students who were trapped in a closet with their teacher who lay with them bleeding to death, with the parents who lost their children. It would prove to be, I believed then, the most profound tragedy our generation would know, and a historic moment for our country as a whole. Two years have passed since the bloodiest school rampage in the nation's history, and it's pretty clear that I was mostly wrong. School violence has become an almost accepted facet of Americana, an eccentricity of the richest and most powerful country in the world. It's become so common, in fact, that we barely batted an eye at the latest shooting in Gary, Ind., earlier this month. The massacre has remained a powerful symbol to people in our age bracket -- according to a recent story in The Philadelphia Inquirer, many colleges are thinking about barring applicants from writing their admissions essays on it because it's become so common. And yes, it's brought newfound introspection and soul-searching to the halls of the nation's high schools, and has increased everyone's sensitivity to even the most benign of threats. But we have done nothing over the past two years to stop it from happening again and again. It has spurred no one to action. After the massacre, there was a flurry of activity in Washington by legislators claiming to have been moved by the events in Littleton, Colo. Yet partisanship prevailed and nothing happened, other than blaming the media and our society and everything besides the ease with which Klebold and Harris purchased their weapons. And then the issue seemed to disappear. Gun control was nearly invisible during the 2000 presidential race. With a pro-gun president and Congress and a Democratic Party scared of alienating any part of the fragile electorate, it seems unlikely that the federal government will take up the issue anytime soon. We can't say that Columbine didn't change anything. No, it changed our world quite dramatically. Elementary school kids are now suspended for just mentioning the word "gun," and any teen who falls outside the mainstream is automatically suspected of being another Klebold or Harris. That this is the legacy of Columbine only compounds the tragedy. It means that not only have we failed to make our schools safer -- we've actually taken a step backwards. We've done nothing to limit guns in this country and are instead making meaningless gestures to make ourselves feel better. And so the 12 students and one teacher murdered two years ago this week died in vain. And a tragedy that should have been a defining moment of our times, a turning point in American history, was neither.Comments powered by Disqus
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