God is everywhere present; not a hair falls from the head or a sparrow fall to the ground without his knowledge. ... He has charged His angels with the ministry of watching and safeguarding every one of His creatures that behold not His face. Kingdoms have their angels assigned to them, and men have their angels; these latter it is to whom religion designates the Holy Guardian Angels. Our Lord says in the Gospel, "Beware lest ye scandalize any of these little ones, for their angels in heaven see the face of My Father." The existence of Guardian Angels, is, hence a dogma of the Christian faith: this being so, what ought not our respect be for that sure and holy intelligence that is ever present at our side; and how great our solicitude be, lest, by any act of ours, we offend those eyes which are ever bent upon us in all our ways!
Heavenly Father, Your infinite love for us has chosen a blessed angel in heaven and appointed him our guide during this earthly pilgrimage. Accept our thanks for so great ablessing. Grant that we may experience the assistance of our holy protector in all our necessities. And you, holy, loving angel and guide, watch over us with all the tenderness of your angelic heart. Keep us always on the way that leads to heaven, and cease not to pray for us until we have attained our final destiny, eternal salvation. Then we shall love you for all eternity. We shall praise and glorify you unceasingly for all the good you have done for us while here on earth. Especially be a faithful and watchful protector of our children. Take our place, and supply what may be wanting to us through human frailty, short-sightedness, or sinful neglect. Lighten, O you perfect servants of God, our heavy task. Guide our children, that they may become like unto Jesus, may imitate Him faithfully, and persevere till they attain eternal life. Amen
Columbine High School students Andy McDonald, left, and Kent Kochsmeier pray at a make shift memorial in a park near Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., Thursday, April 22, 1999. The memorial was set up in response to the attack of two gunmen who killed 12 fellow students and a teacher and wounded many others before they apparently killed themselves Tuesday at the high school.
Credit: Michael S. Green, AP
LITTLETON, Colo. - There were killers in the halls of Columbine High School. And there were also heroes like Dave Sanders and Aaron Hancey.
When the explosions roared and bullets began flying, Sanders, the much-loved coach of the girls basketball team, dashed to help panicked students in the cafeteria.
"He was running back and forth, . . . telling everyone to duck. He saved a lot of people," said Sarah Holton, 16.
Brittany Davies, 15, a sophomore said: "He was telling everyone to stay away from the windows. We could hear the gunman coming in. I knew he (Sanders) would get hurt because he was making sure everyone else was safe."
Sanders then entered the smoke-filled hallway and urged students toward an escape route.
Suddenly, he was reeling, shot twice, through-and-through wounds in each shoulder.
He staggered through the door of a science classroom, where terrified kids saw him begin to cough blood. Panic: Did anyone know first aid?
A teacher rushed to the next room, where he found Hancey, 17, a junior with Boy Scout training in first aid. Swallowing his fear, Hancey followed the teacher, Kent Friesen, out of the relative safety of the room and into the awful corridor. The air was noxious, the floor was littered with shells and debris.
He found Sanders, 47, and a grandfather of five, in a red pool on the white lineoleum floor. Hancey peeled off his white Adidas T-shirt and urged the other boys in the room to do the same. Some of the clothes were made into a pillow. Other shirts were pressed into Sanders' wounds. The boy checked the man's airway.
There was a phone in the room, and Hancey called his father, who used a second line to call paramedics. The elder Hancey relayed questions and advice. For the next three hours, Hancey led a children's crusade to save their teacher's life.
They pressed constantly on his wounds. They found safety blankets to keep their patient warm. Gingerly, they extracted Sanders's wallet and held it open so he could see the pictures of his wife and daughters.
"He kept saying, `I can't breathe' and `I'm not going to make it,' " said Marjorie Lindholm, 16.
But Aaron Hancey didn't give up.
Heroes and villains
Evil came visiting Tuesday at this beautiful school. But meeting it were courage and kindness.
The story is still confused, but by day's end yesterday, as snow clouds rolled over a grieving city, enough was known to understand that this story had heroes to go with its villains.
It is not known, for example, precisely when the mayhem began. There were reports Tuesday that a bomb exploded about a mile from the school a half-hour or so before the shooting broke out. But it wasn't clear whether the events were related.
It is known, however, that at 11:30 a.m. it was fifth period at Columbine High School here. Littleton is not the wealthiest of Denver's suburbs, but it is a very desirable place to live, convenient to downtown, to the booming technology corridor south of the city, and to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
In this very good place there are some very good schools, none more attractive than Columbine High. It was a showplace when it opened a quarter-century ago, very progressive - it was a national pioneer in peer counseling, a program in which students volunteer to help other students through crises - and immediately distinguished itself in academics, music, drama and - most of all - athletics.
Earlier this year, Columbine students were surprised when kids at their arch-rival Chatfield High spread reports of serious gang troubles at Columbine. A joke went around school: Yeah, at Columbine our gangs beat you with their cell phones and run over you with BMWs.
It was a good time of year. Students were still talking about the prom the previous weekend. The first lunch shift was just starting. A number of students left campus for nearby fast-food joints. Throughout the school there were science experiments and choir practices and preparations under way for final exams.
Then, striding across a soccer field, closing on the student parking lots, came boys with guns and bombs. As they came closer, they began firing. An explosion racked a car on the parking lot. Everyone was baffled. Everyone was sure it was some kind of joke. Very quickly, as the blood began to run, everyone realized the truth.
The assailants, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, entered the building at an entrance building near the cafeteria, or commons. They were loaded up with an arsenal of almost unbelievable dimensions: sawed-off shotguns, rifles with pistol grips, pistols and homemade grenades.
How many rounds of ammunition? "Very, very many," said Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokesman Steve Davis yesterday. How many bombs? Maybe 30, inside the building and out - grenades of six or eight inches in size, foot-long pipe bombs and, rigged to detonate at intervals, bombs made in empty propane bottles with a device attached to spray a deadly shower of nails as shrapnel.
"Get down!" a custodian cried out, and students began to drop to the floor. "Crawl!" someone shouted, and a group of kids belly-crawled across the commons floor as others scattered - some into a laundry room with the cafeteria cooks, some into a nearby bathroom. Karen Nielsen, a cafeteria worker, thought of a nearby phone and considered pulling it into the bathroom but realized that the snaking cord might draw the attention of the killers.
A grenade went off in the middle of the commons. Perhaps another. When the belly-crawling kids reached a stairway they jumped to their feet and started running, and the shots resumed. A young man fell wounded.
Officer Neil Gardner is the sheriff's deputy assigned to work each day at Columbine - there is one armed deputy in each of Jefferson County's high schools, not for any particular reason, according to spokesman Davis, just the times we live in. Gardner heard a war erupt in his school and drew his pistol and charged in the direction of the noise. In a corridor near the commons he encountered one of the gunmen and they started firing at each other. Neither was hit.
Gardner retreated to call for reinforcements, but already the 911 dispatcher was calling all cars. Two more deputies arrived within minutes and charged into the building. More shots were exchanged.
By now, Harris and Klebold were moving out of the commons and up the stairs, where they left at least two victims dying. On the second floor, they entered the library where Crystal Woodman, 16, among others, was cowering in the scant cover of a library desk. From her hiding place she could hear the gunmen joyfully turning the library into a charnel house.
"They'd shoot people and yell. They were excited," she said yesterday. "They said, `We've waited to do this our whole lives.' " One saw a boy under a desk and cried, "Peek-a-boo!" before opening fire.
Beside Woodman was Seth Houy, who curled his body around hers and whispered that he would take the bullet.
When Harris and Kelbold stopped to reload, Woodman and Houy ran for their lives.
Gunmen stalk the halls
The shooting lasted for about an hour. The gunmen stalked the halls. They exploded bombs that made the building tremble as if it would collapse. They laughed together. They set off flares, and when the fire alarm began ringing, one of them shot the alarm.
They fired from the windows of the school, spraying broken glass shards over a group of students huddling behind a car on the parking lot. One saw two kids running for their lives beyond a window and began pumping shotgun shells. Perhaps you've seen this in the movies - the windows collapsing like waterfalls one by one as the shooter tracks the target. Unlike the movies, the shots did not vanish into the air. One kid was hit.
Yesterday there were questions about what the police - hundreds and hundreds of them gathering from all over town - were doing as this rampage wore on. The first SWAT team entered the building within 20 minutes of the first shot, sheriff's spokesman Davis said in defense. "But there were 2,000 students at that school, which covers about an acre. There was no way to identify with certainty the suspects. The team went slowly and methodically, with the first priority being the victims."
The police could not be sure what they were up against. At one point, they saw a sign in the shot-out window of the library: "Help, I'm bleeding to death," it said plaintively. And then there was a boy at the window, bloody, ashen, and looking as if he might jump. The Lakewood Police Department SWAT team moved an armored car beneath the window and two officers put down their guns, climbed up on the car and reached toward the window, toward the possible ambush.
Heroism? "Absolutely," said the team leader, Sgt. George Hickle. The boy survived surgery at Swedish Hospital in Denver. "From what we know, he was the last survivor from the carnage," Hickle said.
In all, four SWAT teams were in the building by 1 p.m., going slowly, slowly, room by room. By now the shooting had stopped. But the police did not know exactly what that meant.
A painstaking search
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold apparently shot themselves to death in the high-school library - by a terrible measure the center of the killing.
Because the police did not know precisely where the killers were, or how many of them there might be, much less that they were dead, their progress through Columbine High School was painstaking. In an airless storage room off the auditorium, a mass of kids, including Aaron Hancey's twin brother, Adam, sweated and moaned and waited for help. Other kids tried crawling through the school's ventilation shafts to safety.
And on the blood-stained linoleum floor of the science room, Aaron Hancey and his fellow students kept pressing their shirts into Dave Sanders' shoulders. Hancey spoke constantly to the teacher, leaning close and whispering: "You're doing all right. They're coming. Just hold on. You can do it."
"Tell my girls I love them," Sanders breathed.
Three hours passed this way.
Then Hancey looked up to see a heavily armed and armored officer slide through the doorway. "Be quiet. Put your hands on your heads and follow us out," he barked.
Aaron Hancey offered to stay with Dave Sanders. "We've got to get everyone out," the policeman repeated.
Sometime after the boy left - it is not known precisely when - Dave Sanders died.
Information from The Washington Post, The Associated Press and USA Today is included in this report.
THE YOUNG, INNOCENT LIVES THAT WERE LOST
LITTLETON, Colo. - One minute, it was the daily routine of high school.
The short kid avoided the crowd so he could get to class without getting bumped around. The tall blond girl sat in trigonometry, breezing through a test. A bubbly girl, munching a sandwich, waved to a friend and said, "Bye, sweetie!"
The next minute, they were dying as two gunmen rampaged through the school.
Their friends were left to describe not just the final moments of their lives, but what kind of people they were.
Corey Depooter, 17. Loved to golf, hunt and fish. Former wrestler. Recently took maintenance job at a golf club to save up for a fishing boat with a friend. Good student. Had wisdom teeth removed this year and frustrated that it forced him to miss school. Hid under library table with friends as gunmen sprayed bullets at floor level.
William ''Dave'' Sanders, 47. Computer and business teacher for 24 years. Coached girls' basketball and softball; basketball team posted winning record in his first year, 1997-98 after finishing next-to-last the year before. Married with at least two daughters and five grandchildren. Shot twice in chest while directing students down hallway to safety. Survived at least three hours until students were rescued.
Rachel Scott, 17. Played lead in a student-written school play, ''Smoke in the Room.'' Active in Celebration Christian Fellowship church. Liked photography. During rampage, younger brother Craig, 16, played dead in library and helped lead others to safety.
Isaiah Shoels, 18. Only black youth shot. Due to graduate in May. Suffered health problems as a child and had heart surgery twice. Wanted to attend an arts college and become a music executive. Small in stature, but lifted weights and played football and wrestled. Bench-pressed twice his weight. Transferred from Lakewood High School. Shot in the head execution-style in the school library specifically because of his race and athletic interests, witnesses said.
His father, Michael Shoels, said Isaiah's dream was to be a music-company executive. He was 18 years old and ready to launch his career.
Isaiah was shot once in the head.
John Tomlin, 16. Enjoyed driving off-road in his beat-up Chevy pickup. Worked after-school in gardening store and belonged to a church youth group. Last year, went on missionary trip to Mexico with family and built a house for poor people. Planned to enlist in the Army in two years. Last year, he went on a missionary trip to Mexico with family and built a house for poor people. He planned to enlist in the Army.
"He was a great kid, really happy, going to school, getting good grades," said his father, John Tomlin. "He knew what he wanted to do. He had everything planned."
Lauren Townsend, 18. Was captain of girls' varsity basketball team, coached by her mother. Other players said she was ''consumed'' by the sport. Member of the National Honor Society. Wanted to major in biology in college.
Craig Nason, 17, a junior, has an image frozen in his mind of Bernal in trignometry class Tuesday morning, just before she was slain. "We were taking a test," he recalled. "I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but she was zipping through."
Caryn Slizeski, 16, said Scott was "smart, really cool, a strong person who had her own opinions."
Scott's stepbrother, Craig Scott, 16, was in the library and survived the massacre.
Slizeski now has her frozen memory of Rachel Scott. "I saw her sitting inside of a door eating her lunch" just before the shooting.
"She said, `Bye, sweetie.' She called everybody sweetie."
Other victims identified today:
Matthew Ketcher, 16: A junior, had hoped to start for the football team. Lifted weights. Played on offensive and defensive lines. Maintained A average. Shot in library after he tried to reach friends hiding in adjacent video room.
Daniel Mauser, 15: A sophomore, excelled in math and science, and earned straight A's. Ran cross country and joined debate team. Recently returned from two-week trip to Paris with French club.
Cassie Bernal was the kind of girl who gets noticed in a high-school hallway anywhere in America. She was 5 feet 8 inches tall, with blond hair that hung past her waist.
One of the features her friends remember the most was "her beautiful smile," but they noted that her beauty had depth.
"She was a beautiful, strong Christian," said Jill Stevenson, 16, a sophomore at nearby Dakota Ridge High School and a friend of Bernal at the church they attended, West Bowles Community Church.
Stevenson said life wasn't easy for Bernal. She came from what she called "a broken background" and had struggled with the challenges of teenage life.
Steven Curnow, age unknown.
Daniel Rohrbough, age unknown.
Kyle Velasquez, age unknown.