DON GROVES/Albany Ledger
Evan Todd, a survivor of the April 20, 1999, shootings at Columbine High School, speaks about his experience that day Aug. 17 at Albany High School.
By Don Groves
The Albany Ledger
A survivor of the Columbine High School shootings said one’s destiny begins with an individual’s thoughts.
Evan Todd shared his experience and the emotions he felt that fateful day on April 20, 1999, during a program Aug. 16 sponsored by the Albany Carnegie Public Library at Albany High School. Todd, who was a sophomore at the time of the shootings, said he and the other students never imagine such a thing would take place in Littleton, Colo.
A defensive lineman for the high school football team, Todd said he and a few other players had gotten in trouble over some pranks and their coach had told them they were to run laps during lunch hour. Instead of taking his punishment on the track, Todd said he went to the library “because I thought that was the last place coach would look for me.”
Inside the library, Todd said he heard a large explosion outside and went to a window to look. He said outside he saw smoke coming from a car. A few minutes later he said they heard gunshots followed by the sounds of students running and screaming in the hallways.
Todd said he hid behind a pillar in the library as he heard gunshots growing louder and then heard explosions. Then, he said, a teacher who had been shot rushed into the library and said, “Everyone get down now. There’s kids with guns.”
From behind the pillar, Todd said he could see the gunmen outside in the hall. When one of the shooters entered, Todd said the shooter spotted him and as he tried to take cover fired a shotgun at him, wounding Todd in the back and face. He said a second person entered the library and heard them say, “Stand up. Everyone get up.”
Pipe bombs began going off, Todd said, and the gunmen started shooting students trying to hide beneath the tables. He said gunmen would ask the students why they shouldn’t be killed and a after a student gave an answer he heard a gunshot.
Todd said he had taken cover beneath a desk and soon heard footsteps. He said the shooters pointed their weapons at him and asked him why he shouldn’t be killed.
“I said, ‘I’ve been good to you and everyone else in this school and you know it.’” He said one of the gunman told the other, “You can kill him if you want” but instead the other answered, “No, let’s got to the commons” and they left.
Todd said the library was full of smoke and he stood and asked if anyone else was alive. Soon after, he said he heard students running in the hallways and he realized there were other survivors. He said he ran outside with them and found 20 to 30 other students hiding behind a police car where he helped with first aid as he could while gunfire continued inside.
Todd was eventually picked up by his older brother, who had remained home sick the day of the shootings, he said. As a teen Todd said he had gotten into trouble a time or two so when his mother, who had no idea what had taken place, saw his own blood and that of others on him she asked, “What did you do now?”
Todd said his father took him to an outpatient clinic for treatment of his wounds. He said Colorado law requires patients involved in gunshots to provide statements. After waiting to give his statement, Todd said his dad, who had been involved in the sheriff’s office, said law enforcement had more pressing concerns to take care of so they left their identification and went home. Todd said it was about week later he was asked to provide his statement.
“The aftermath of the shooting is one of the most unexplainable times of my life,” Todd said.
While the media tried to explain why the shootings had taken place Todd said he and the other students were burying their friends. He said attending funerals was the toughest part, knowing he was never going to see that person again because of something two kids had done.
Todd said he also learned a lot about his community. The night after the shootings he said he and other students met at movie theaters or churches to just sit around and talk about what had happened. He said 200 teens would meet up in a parking lot and talk about anything and that made him realized how beneficial it is to reach out and talk to someone who shows the same emotions.
“No matter what you’re going through in life there is always somebody else out there who is also going through it or has already been through it,” he said.
Todd said he also learned later that after the shooters pointed their gun at his head they didn’t shoot another student or teacher at Columbine. He said they would walk through the hallways, look inside a classroom at the students, but not entering the rooms or firing at them. He said he thinks they realized the seriousness of what they had done after speaking to him. Shortly afterward they committed suicide.
The media coverage following the shootings comes nowhere close to describing his emotions at the time, Todd said. He said the media focused on why the shootings had taken place, saying the two had been bullied. Todd said that was divisive and that the school included a wide variety of different groups of students, each group supported the others.
Todd said he doesn’t favor anti-bullying programs that have become a part of many school districts. He said instead of treating others as one wishes to be treated anti-bullying programs encourages people to tell others how they wish to be treated. He said instead people should follow the Golden Rule.
Todd, like the other survivors, said he too tried to better understand life and what had happened on April 10. He said what had the greatest impact on him happened at a stop at a gift shop while camping when saw beneath a picture of huge mountain range that said “The essence of destiny: Watch your thoughts for they become words. Choose your words for they become actions. Understand your actions for they become habit. Study your habits for they become your character. Develop your character for it becomes your destiny.”
That quote, Todd said, aptly applied to what had been on his mind following the shootings and it made him think of what had been on the killers’ minds. “Watch your thoughts, they become words,” he said. He said the two shooters had thought about nothing but hate, that they themselves had been bullies and had picked on younger students.
“Habits become character and their habits became their actions and the nation knows our destiny,” he said.
Todd said he also thought about the quote and how it had applied to the people who had helped the Columbine survivors and the victims’ families following the shootings. He said the people who helped on that day and afterward had years before built themselves into the people they were and helping others had become their destiny.
“When I was under that desk and had guns pointing at my head I thought this is it. Since then I’ve been thinking seize the day … Every day I think there is something more I should do,” Todd said. “Challenge yourself as I challenge myself when I look in the mirror each day and ask yourself, ‘How can I be a better person tomorrow?’”