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Tragedy in Colorado

Attack Opens Old Wounds for Survivors

Violence: Relatives of others killed in school shootings say tragedies bring to the surface nightmares they never entirely put behind them.

April 21, 1999| From Associated Press

Sabrina Steger was already crying when she picked up the phone.

She had been in tears since she first heard about Tuesday's shooting at a suburban Colorado high school. A place filled with children--like her 15-year-old daughter, Kayce, who was gunned down in December 1997 when another student opened fire on a group of students praying in the hallway.

Sobbing to a reporter, the Paducah, Ky., woman said she relives the terrifying scene of her daughter's death every time a new shooting happens at another school. Tuesday's attack was at least the sixth in the less than 18 months since then.

"It's Dec. 1, 1997, all over again. How many more times does this have to happen?" Steger said, sobbing. "It doesn't get any easier."

Others in communities across the country that have been devastated by school shootings said the latest violence just brings to the surface nightmares they have never entirely put behind them.

"My daughter said a week ago, 'I wonder when it's going to happen again,' " said James Strand, who owns the dance hall where Andrew Wurst, 15, gunned down middle school teacher John Gillette at a graduation dance in Edinboro, Pa., April 24 last year.

"She said, 'I think it's just a matter of when and where,' " Strand said. "And she was right."

Strand, whose wife and four children were at the dance, chased Wurst down and held him until police came. The survivors of the Columbine High School shooting have hard days ahead, he predicted.

"It has taken any innocence. It has stripped it from me and it has stripped it from my wife and my children," he said. "Now we watch everything we do and everywhere we go, and that's the biggest loss for us."

Edinboro residents had been planning a prayer vigil Saturday to mark the painful anniversary of the Gillette shooting.

"This has been a very hard week for me. And this is not helping," Debbie Gillette, the teacher's widow, said of the Colorado shooting. "It makes me sick."

Mitchell Wright, whose wife, teacher Shannon Wright, was killed in March 1998 in Jonesboro, Ark., said he heard about the Colorado shootings on his car radio as he was driving on nearly the same stretch of road that he was on when he learned his wife had been shot.

"You just instantly think back to what happened in your own life last year and you feel for the families and what they're about to go through," he said.

Suzann Wilson, whose 11-year-old daughter, Britthney Varner, was killed in Jonesboro, was in Chicago on Tuesday with a safe schools advocacy program with which she now works. She said she was outraged by the Colorado shootings.

"It's shocking that in this country, guns are portrayed as sacred and as something we can't put legislation on," she said. "Somehow, our 2nd Amendment rights are more important that any of the other rights that are guaranteed to us."

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