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Americas

Colorado marks 10 years since Columbine school tragedy

Video by Carla WESTERHEIDE

Latest update : 2009-04-20

Colorado is marking the 10th anniversary of a massacre at Columbine High School that left 13 people dead and 23 others wounded after two heavily-armed students targeted teachers and fellow students as they walked the halls of their school.

AFP - Flags will fly at half-mast across Colorado on Monday as the region remembers the Columbine High School massacre, 10 years after the tragedy that left 13 people dead and 23 others wounded.
   
Relatives of victims and community leaders will gather to reflect on the horrors of April 20, 1999, when heavily-armed teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a bloody rampage through the halls of their high school.
   
On Sunday, a candelight vigil will be held at Littleton's Columbine Memorial from 7:30 pm ahead of a ceremony on Monday to mark the 10th anniversary of a day that etched itself into America's national psyche.
   
The massacre was one of the first mass-shootings ever to unfold on live television, with haunting images of injured students scrambling from windows as heavily armed police SWAT teams moved in beamed around the world.
   
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who on Friday ordered flags on all public buildings across the state to fly at half-mast, said the massacre "will continue to live in our memories."
   
"People to this day remember exactly where they were when they first heard about the tragedy unfolding in Jefferson County," Ritter said.
   
The killings of 12 students and their teacher marked a "tremendous loss of innocence in America, and their memories must not be forgotten" he added. "We cannot allow the lessons of this tragedy to fade with the passage of time. The families of those who died that day remain in our thoughts and prayers."
   
As it has done on every April 20 since the massacre, Columbine High School will be closed for the day.
   
The school's long-serving principal, Frank DeAngelis, who has vowed to remain in the job until every student who was in kindergarten on the day of the attack has graduated, will be among those attending Monday's service.
   
While Columbine proved the catalyst for a furious debate about gun control in the United States, where the right to possess firearms is enshrined in the constitution, attempts to restrict weapons have largely fizzled.
   
The administration of former President George W. Bush failed to renew a 10-year moratorium on the sale of assault rifles which expired in 2004.
   
President Barack Obama's administration has said it plans to renew the ban, which has resulted in soaring sales of firearms since last year's election.
   
In several mass shootings since Columbine, most notably the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 people dead, guns involved were obtained legally.
   
However recent polls suggest that support for stricter laws on gun control is at an all-time low, with a CNN survey showing just 39 percent in favor of more restrictions compared to 54 percent eight years ago.
   
Meanwhile, safety and security experts say that while Columbine led to improvements in areas such as school design, outreach programs and information sharing between law enforcement and education agencies, more could be done.
   
Dennis Lewis, who runs Edu-Safe, a school safety and training consulting organization, said there was still a need for national campus safety standards.
   
"One of the things I've been somewhat disappointed in is that we've been a bit haphazard," Lewis said. "There are no national standards about school safety and security. There are guidelines, but very few national standards.
 

Date created : 2009-04-20

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