Columbine survivors are coping with a very different anniversary amid virus lockdown
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April can be a difficult month for many survivors of the Columbine High School attacks, even 21 years later.

12 students and a teacher were killed on April 20, 1999. Each year, family members of those who died, and survivors who escaped the school with their lives, react to the anniversary in different ways. This year, those reactions are complicated by stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus outbreak.

Colorado Voices

Columbine survivor reflects on a very different anniversary

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Columbine survivor Heather Martin reflects on a very different 21st anniversary.

“There are some survivors who are really upset that they aren’t able to do the things that they do every year on the 20th,” said Heather Martin, a Columbine survivor who escaped without physical injuries after hiding for hours in the school’s choir room.

Martin co-founded a support group for mass trauma incident survivors of the called The Rebels Project, and spoke with Insight’s John Ferrugia about the ways survivors are coping with a very different anniversary this year.

“April has not been the way it usually is for me. I usually get really anxious in April and start to get snappy. Now I can’t tell if I’m just getting anxious or snappy with my husband because, you know, we’re trapped in our house together, or because it’s April,” Martin said.

The school’s official memorial ceremony for families will be held virtually this year. Martin said she expects other survivors will connect with each other remotely as well.

“There are people who have routines. Like myself, in years past, I go to the school on April 20th. And I spend time with the people that I love and that mean something to me and that have been a big part of my recovery. And I’m not going to be able to do that this year,” Martin said. “I’m okay with it because … there are other things going on right now in the world.”

“I can’t speak for everybody but I have heard people say that it is difficult for them because they can’t go, they can’t do the things that they might normally do,” Martin said. “I think it might negatively impact their mental health that they don’t have a lot of options and can’t do the routines. It is really important for survivors to honor that day in a way that they find meaningful, so having limited options I think is going to be different.”

The Rebels Project connects survivors not only from Columbine but more than 80 other mass trauma incidents in a private online group. The project connects survivors with mental health professionals and in some cases can even financially support survivors on their road to recovery.

“There’s a lot of people at different stages of their recovery. For Columbine specifically, there are some people who still don’t talk about it, still don’t recognize it, and the Rebels Project offers a place where no one is going to judge you for what you’re going through and what you have been through,” Martin said.

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