Regardless of whether they were physically injured on April 20, 1999, nearly every individual present at Columbine on that dreadful day has carried their own personal scars from the attack. Over the next few days, I'd like to highlight some of their stories to show how they have overcome the difficulties they've endured because of what they faced that day.
Ashley Egeland was a freshman at Columbine in 1999. At the time of Eric's and Dylan's rampage she was in gym and she, several other students and a few teachers were able to hide in a small room off the gymnasium. Ashley was deeply traumatized by what had happened but rarely shared her feelings about the attack. She turned to drugs to help her cope and struggled with a meth addiction and serious scrapes with the law for 18 yrs. Ashley was able to get sober and now works as a counselor at the treatment facility that helped her reclaim her life.
Ashley's sister, Heather Egeland Martin, was a senior and in choir practice when the shooting began. She and dozens of other students locked themselves into a small office where they remained for hours until they were rescued by SWAT. Each of the students wrote their names on the wall of the office, believing that they wouldn't survive the day. Heather reports that she lost her way after high school; she dropped out of college, struggled with severe anxiety and developed an eating disorder. After several years she was able to get her life back on track and went on to become a teacher at Aurora Central High School in Colorado. Ironically, her workplace is just a few streets away from the Century 16 movie theater where in 2012, James Holmes murdered 12 and injured 70. The shooting prompted Heather to co-found The Rebels Project with fellow Columbine survivor, Jennifer Hammer. Named after the Columbine mascot, the group offers support to those affected by mass shootings.
Austin Eubanks was a junior in 1999 and found himself in the library during the attack. Eubanks and his best friend, Corey DePooter, took refuge under a table but it did not stop the bullets. DePooter was murdered by Dylan Klebold and Austin was hit in the knee and hand. During his recovery, Eubanks was prescribed opiates for his pain and quickly became addicted. He battled his addiction for 12 yrs but is now clean and works at a recovery center assisting people to overcome their substance abuse issues. Eubanks would like to see funding towards research to determine why attacks like Columbine continue to occur in order to help identify and rehabilitate at-risk young men.
Anne Marie Hochhalter was also a junior and was one of the students outside when Eric and Dylan began shooting. Hochhalter was paralyzed from the waist down after Eric Harris shot her in the back and chest. Six months after the attack, for reasons unrelated to her daughter’s injuries, Hochhalter’s mother committed suicide. Anne Marie lives with chronic, often debilitating pain and recurrent infections and like her mother also struggles with depression. Despite these challenges, she is able to work part time and volunteers with a local dog rescue. Hochhalter advocates for gun control and supports the No Notoriety Movement which urges law enforcement and the media to refrain from publicizing information about perpetrators of violent crimes.
Stay tuned for additional profiles of remarkable people thriving after the Columbine tragedy...