Officials Consider Demolishing Columbine High School

This past year alone, which marked 20 years since the shooting, more than 2,400 unauthorized visitors have attempted to access the campus.
Published: June 17, 2019

This April marked 20 years since 13 people lost their lives at Columbine High School and the suburban community where the building stands is debating if it should be torn down.

In the two decades since the shooting, a steady influx of people has attempted to gain access to the campus. This year, the school saw a record high with campus security staff coming into contact with more then 2,400 “unauthorized” people on the Littleton, Colorado, campus, reports the Associated Press.

“These people, they want the building,” said district security chief John McDonald. “They want to experience it, to walk the halls … The only way we can stop that interest in the building is to move it. Otherwise, they’re not going to stop coming.”

The record high numbers have brought on a debate of whether or not it should be torn down. The newest proposal calls for keeping the school’s new library, which was built after the attack, and to create a new school on the existing campus but set further back to leave more room for security to stop intruders.

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Following the shooting, now-retired principal Frank DeAngelis spoke with victims’ families regarding the fate of the building. The majority said they felt demolishing the building meant “the two killers had won.”

However, DeAngelis told NPR he is now advocating for the school to be torn down after years of dealing with unwanted visitors.

“I think if we would have known or projected what was going to happen, we may have had a different discussion about going back into the building,” he said. “We are Columbine because of the people. They’re the ones with the hope and resiliency. It’s not necessarily the bricks and the mortars.”

Retired English teacher Paula Reed, who originally did not want the building to be torn down, has changed her opinion over the years as well.

“I never loved that building,” she said. “I loved the community, my kids, my colleagues. And their needs simply matter more than my sentimentality.”

Some other survivors disagree, stating revisiting the site has been a major part of their healing process.

Student survivor Will Beck recently brought his three children to the school. He walked them through the bathroom where he hid from the shooters and was saved by a teacher.

“I was heartbroken over the thought of losing it,” Beck said. “The school, to me, is a very special place.”

Student survivor Josh Lapp echoed his sentiment.

“It’s not right,” he said. “This community has had to deal with enough of a burden, to ask them to pay for this new construction isn’t fair, just because of what the shooters did.”

Columbine wouldn’t be the first mass school shooting site to be torn down. In 2013, Sandy Hook Elementary School was demolished and a new building was put up. Parkland, Florida, officials are planning to replace one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas buildings where the shooting occurred.

Other communities have chosen to turn mass shooting sites into memorials or museums, including Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed, and First Baptist Church in Sutherlands Springs, Texas, where 24 people were killed.

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