I didn’t cover the shootings at Columbine High School, but I covered an upshot.
On the day of the terrible events of in 1999 I was actually in Pell Lake, Wisconsin for CNN, covering the news that an Illinois couple had won a big Powerball lottery jackpot. As I stood in front of the camera awaiting my cue to go live, the cue never came. Some other news was breaking.
Move ahead to December and again I found myself covering a disgusting story about a guy in Pontiac, Michigan selling photos from World War II concentration camps on eBay. My pager, yes, it was 1999, went off. The CNN National Desk in Atlanta said they need us to go the next day out to Colorado. The Columbine High School football team was going to play for the state championship again prohibitive favorite Cherry Creek.
Our plane to Denver was running late and we, in turn, were late for a news conference with the school principal the day before the big game. Instead of castigating us for being late, he was warm and understanding, and above all, sympathetic that our tardiness was beyond our control. We were sure he had honed these skills through necessity over the last six terrible months.
When we arrived at the game the next day, our goal was to shoot some student interviews before it started, then settle in for the game and whatever the results might be. We were not greeted warmly by the students. We didn’t blame them. That’s all they needed was another camera in their faces. Another reporter sticking a mic in front of them looking for answers from traumatized teenagers. We respected their pleas for privacy and retreated. Then the game.
Columbine wasn’t supposed to have a prayer of beating Cherry Creek, but their prayers were answered. A semblance of joy and accomplishment in a year of utter sadness and anger. We had little time to put together our piece and in the end, I decided the bulk of it should just be the natural sound of the expressions of happiness and gratitude….for this one bright light during the darkest year. Here’s my story.