- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

LITTLETON, Colo. — The Columbine High School massacre has inspired more than 20 books, two movies, hundreds of articles, a half-dozen songs and even its own lexicon.

Seven years after the worst school shooting in U.S. history, Columbine will soon have its own memorial.

President Bill Clinton yesterday presided over the Columbine Memorial groundbreaking ceremony at Clement Park, adjacent to the high school, telling the rain-drenched crowd of about 2,000 that “you remind us that even in the midst of tragedy, we see the very best.”

Mr. Clinton, speaking from under an umbrella, recalled his visit to the high school for a community forum a few weeks after the April 20, 1999, slaying, when he was still president.

“This was a momentous event in the history of the country, and it left every parent feeling helpless … because we think the natural order of things entitles every child to a safe home, a safe neighborhood, a safe school,” he said.

Dawn Anna Beck, the mother of shooting victim Lauren Townsend, asked onlookers to remember how the community came together in the tragedy’s aftermath. She read the names of the 12 students and one teacher killed that day, referring to them as “our 13.”

“They’re here. Can you feel them? Our angels?” Mrs. Beck asked.

The memorial design features two rings, an inner Ring of Remembrance and outer Ring of Healing, engraved with quotes from victims and others.

What surprises many Littleton residents is that a Columbine memorial is only now under way. The idea of a memorial was frequently raised in the weeks and months after two Columbine seniors shot and killed the 13 and wounded two dozen others before turning their firearms on themselves.

The first priority of school officials and the victims’ parents, however, was deciding what to do with the school library, where most of the victims were shot and where the killers committed suicide.

The school ultimately gutted the library and turned it into a glass-enclosed atrium in 2000 after a fundraising group, Healing of People Everywhere, raised $3.1 million for the project. A new library was built in the back of the school.

By the time the Foothills Foundation and the Columbine Memorial Committee released a blueprint and kicked off the fundraising drive, it was 2003, nearly four years after the shooting, and Columbine fatigue had set in.

The initial $3 million design was scaled back to $1.5 million after fundraising efforts proved slow. As of this month, about $1.14 million, or 70 percent, of the fundraising goal has been met.

Construction is slated to begin July 10 and finish in six months.

“This project is a bit of a step in faith since we remain approximately $350,000 short of our fundraising goal,” project organizer Bob Easton said.

Mr. Clinton brought the project closer to its goal by offering to match a $50,000 pledge made by a local golf course, a gesture that brought cheers from the crowd, which included more than 100 victims’ relatives.

Fundraising has come mainly through events such as last month’s golf tournament and a 2004 gala that also featured Mr. Clinton. The Coors brewing family donated $100,000.

Organizers also are selling paper columbines — the blue columbine is the state flower of Colorado — and commemorative pins, while Colorado Starbucks stores are donating $3 from the sale of each bag of Community Blend coffee

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