Friday, April 20, 2007

Remembering Columbine

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the school shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, and the fifth day of mourning for those lost in the Virginia Tech incident on Monday. Thirteen people were gunned down at Columbine, and thirty-two were killed at Virginia Tech. While shocking and disconcerting to all of us, I think we tend to maintain a level of detachment from the events because very few of us are linked to anybody who was involved in either incident or anything remotely similar. However, the six degrees of separation maintain that we are all linked, and unfortunately, sometimes it’s true.

It must be eight or nine years ago that I took my first trip to Snow Valley Basketball School in Montecito, CA (a quick aside – Montecito is about 10 minutes away from Santa Barbara, Snow Valley is held at Westmont College, it used to be run by one of the best teachers I’ve ever known, Herb Livsey, and was one of the best teaching camps in America). I arrived around 10:30 AM on a Sunday morning, extremely early since the camp started at 3:30 PM. I introduced myself to Coach Livsey, and then asked if there was anything I could do to help. He asked me if I might take two young men down to the local bakery for breakfast, since they had spent the weekend there, and the cafeteria wasn’t open. I agreed, and we drove down to the Xanadu CafĂ© for breakfast. They were both from Denver, CO, and now that I think about it, must have been going into their sophomore year of high school. One of them was named Greg Barnes.

They were both pretty good kids, but I remember Greg a little more since he had these huge hands that could palm a basketball like it was a volleyball. He was probably 6-2 or 6-3 at the time, weighing in the neighborhood of 165 pounds, and he used to pull that Connie Hawkins/James Worthy/Michael Jordan thing where he’d palm the ball in one hand while holding off his defender with the other. I remember seeing him do that in a game, so I commented to him how dangerous it was and how it limited some of his offensive freedom. He grinned at me, and I didn’t see him do it again the rest of the camp.

He was a pretty good player at the camp, and it turns out he was a pretty good player in the state of Colorado, too. A player I used to coach at UC Irvine, Ross Schraeder, was also from Denver and said that Greg was a stud, both on and off the court. He averaged 26.2 points per game his junior year and helped lead his team to the state semi-finals. Harvard, Notre Dame, and a host of other schools were recruiting him during his junior year, and he was sure to play basketball at the Division-I level in college. Many thought he would be the best player in the state of Colorado his senior year.

Two weeks from today will mark the five-year anniversary of the death of Greg Barnes. Greg Barnes was a sophomore at Columbine in the spring of 1999. He was friends with two of the victims, had both killers in his English class, and was looking out his classroom window as Dave Sanders, a teacher at Columbine, was shot twice in the back while trying to warn students and aid their escape. Greg pulled Sanders into the classroom and tried to stop the bleeding with the shirt off his back while waiting for help. He had to leave Sanders and step over bodies of his classmates as police escorted students off campus.

Greg Barnes hung himself on May 4, 2000, a year after the Columbine shootings. He was found by his father at 12:15 PM, “Adam’s Song” by Blink-182 playing on his CD player. He left no note or reason why he chose to end his life, and students and teachers alike said that there was no outward sign that Greg was despondent at all. There is caution in linking Greg’s suicide to what he witness and endured at Columbine, but the possibility exists. Regardless, his death rocked the Columbine community again.

I’m not saying that because I spent a few hours during one week with Greg Barnes that I knew him. But it is disturbing to realize that you can be that close to something so horrific, and to realize that it could happen to somebody you knew, even if you knew them only in passing. I can’t imagine and don’t want to know what it’s like to be a part of something like what happened at Columbine or at Virginia Tech. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I shudder at the thought of her having to deal with something as insane as what happened on those campuses. I can only hope that people take the time to see what’s going on around them, help those that need it, and realize that we’re all closer to each other than we think.

Remember Greg Barnes:

An article from the Denver Post about Greg’s death.

A nice tribute written by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated.

A remembrance from Meghan McKee, a student at Columbine.

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P.S. – If you’re not already, put on some maroon and orange today as a show of support for the Virginia Tech family.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it's been eight years. and i didn't know greg was so involved in the whole thing. sigh.. -steph