School Shootings: The Columbine Generation Copes
A Columbine survivor speaks out about shool shootings and their impact on youths.
Once again, school shootings are
in the headlines. And in recent years, those headlines have become all too
familiar to students.
"It's affected the generation
Marjorie Lindholm, a survivor of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings
in Littleton, Colo., tells WebMD. "If you notice the pattern of the school
shootings, they were high schools and now it's moving into colleges, which kind
of means it's following the age group."
Lindholm was in a classroom where
a wounded teacher died before a SWAT team got the students out.
After Columbine, "I dropped
out of high school, and it took a lot of years to get courage to go to college,
and I still can't do it," she says. "I was trying to do a biology
major, but you have to go to the classroom, and last semester I quit going
again because there's been so many shootings." She is now pursuing a
sociology degree online "so that I don't have to walk into a classroom
anymore for the remainder of my bachelor's."
Years later, school shootings
bring back painful memories. "Every time something like that happens, you
kind of relive what you lived through," says Lindholm. "On those days,
you do need to find comfort in something. My thing is ice cream ... cookies and
cream," she says.
But it's not just about food.
Lindholm reaches out to school shooting survivors through her MySpace page.
"Anyone can contact me, and other Columbine victims are also available to
talk. There's a network of people that are ready to help if they reach out and
look for them," says Lindholm.
Students who were in elementary, middle, or high school when Columbine
happened are now
teens or young adults.
"These young people have been exposed to more violence than perhaps any
other previous generation just because of [its prevalence] in television,
movies, and actual coverage of violent incidents," Scott Poland, EdD, tells
Poland is the crisis coordinator at Nova Southeastern University in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla. He's been involved in crisis work at 11 school shootings,
"Columbine sent shock waves through every school in America," says
Poland. "My daughter, Jill, was an eighth-grader in Houston at that time.
She didn't want to get out of the car the next morning because she was
Researchers haven't yet studied the impact that the string of school
shootings has had on the teens and young adults who
have grown up with such crimes.
"I think if there's a cumulative effect, it's because we don't talk
about things the way we should," says Poland.
"You can run a theory that says they'd be more fearful because they've
had more of these incidents in their lives and so it seems that life is more
unpredictable, and if you add 9/11 to that, it's even been a stronger part of
their lives," Patrick Tolan, PhD, director of the Institute for Juvenile
Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, tells WebMD.
"On the other hand," says Tolan, "these kinds of things have
been in their lives in a such a way that it may not be as shocking as much as
it is for people who grow up not hearing about these things."