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Austin, MN – School shootings in the United States seem to be all too common. And with the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre fresh in our minds, it’s sparked an intense debate about gun control and school safety. But this week is significant for another community that’s been scarred by violence.
Tomorrow marks 14 years since students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 12 of their classmates and 1 teacher, before taking their own lives. And it turns out a local man has a very personal connection to the tragedy.
April 20th ,1999: A day many of us will never forget. Brett Williams remembers it like it was yesterday.
“He goes, I think your high school is on the news and I said what? And I thought no,” said Williams.
Though he was miles away attending college in Minnesota, news of the shooting hit far too close to home. Because for Williams, Littleton, Colorado is home. He graduated from Columbine High School in 1997, two years before the tragedy.
“It was very surreal, it was very difficult for me to watch. I have to admit, I was glued probably for four to five hours,” said Williams.
He helplessly as his old stomping grounds turned into a battleground. Those images still haunt him to this day.
“Growing up as a kid, watching the news, you see wars, you see evil. My dad was a Vietnam veteran, so you see that from afar. Yet, when you see the faces that you recognize, that you’ve known and have loved, it really tends to personalize it, it brings it home,” Williams said.
Williams and his family now live in Austin, where he’s a pastor at Grace Baptist Church. He says his connection to Columbine fuels his passion for sharing his beliefs with others.
“Post-Columbine, with Newtown, with Virginia Tech, even with the massacre that happened in the Amish community, our children need hope, and they need a message of love and salvation,” Williams said.
It’s a message he carries with him when he visits his family and friends in Littleton. And 14 years later, it’s a community that’s forever changed.
“It’s not the normal that it was. I think that once an event like that happens, I don’t think it ever goes back to the original state. But it is a new normal. Life goes on,” Williams said.