In 1999, I was an eager freshman ready to be a sophomore. My last block of the day I could be found sitting in Mr. Graham’s World History class where my biggest worry of the moment was whether or not I had the correct index card size for our daily quizzes. That all changed on April 20, 1999.
Eighteen years ago, the life of a high school student changed. It changed me, and it changed all students who found themselves to be graduates of the Class of 1999 to the Class of 2002. Eighteen years ago today, twelve students and 1 teacher were murdered at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado by two of their classmates. No longer was I concerned about the right size index card; instead I found myself worried about why my teacher was locking the doors after we’d all entered the classroom.
You see, Columbine changed our generation. No longer were we innocent children who showed up for the fun days of high school. But we matured instantly in that moment in the sense that we became aware of the evil in the world and the ever-present threat to our safety. We became aware of the possibility, as threats ran high and rumors spread in our own hometown. We wore our ID cards around our neck without having to be asked. We knew to be on the alert for those around us who might be struggling. We weren’t afraid to speak out. We watched as Oprah and Katie Couric interviewed survivors and parents still waiting for their children.
We were changed.
I applaud our generation. I applaud those who graduated from 1999-2002. We share something; we share a bond that others can not encroach upon. We were those who found ourselves having to wake up each morning and go to the very location, our high schools, where numerous attacks unfolded after Columbine. Because of Columbine, I venture to say that we have been changed because we fail to trust as easily. We fail to open ourselves. We fear a little more than others do. And yet, we are also resilient. We are a generation that faced terror and fear not only from Columbine but also the attacks of 9/11, and we did so in the midst of the crazy stage of adolescence. And this is why I applaud us: Though we were changed and though our lives took a turn we never expected and though we matured instantly, we stood the test. We emerged passionate, forgiving, and closer. We moved forward and became alert. We struggle to trust, but when we do we trust fully. We show grace and compassion.
Yes, I was changed.
This article originally appeared on This Life. This Wife.