Columbine Tragedy: 20 years later

‘Keep looking up. Keep moving ahead’

Dawn Anna and Bruce Beck, parents of student Lauren Townsend


A week after her daughter Lauren Townsend was killed at Columbine, Dawn Anna stood at a memorial event beside her husband, Bruce Beck. While the speaker said to bow their heads in prayer, Anna said something told her to look up.

She saw a red-tailed hawk circling above, its head cocked, with one eye on the crowd.

“Lauren was there letting us know it was OK,” said Beck, Lauren’s stepfather.

“It was a sign: Keep looking up,” Anna said. “Keep moving ahead.”

In the 20 years since Columbine, Anna and Beck have donated more than $300,000 to animal-related causes through Lauren’s Wildlife Fund, in honor of their daughter who felt a powerful connection to animals.

“Lauren worked at a small animal hospital, and every week she’d come home saying we needed to adopt this dog or that dog,” Beck said.

The fund has given grants to the Keenesburg Wild Animal Sanctuary, the Wildlife Experience and groups that save wolves in Fort Collins, apes in Hawaii, and even raccoons in Minnesota.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the difference she’s made in animals’ lives,” Beck said.

Moving forward hasn’t been easy.

“With Lauren’s loss came a huge hole in my heart,” Anna said. “That hole doesn’t get any smaller, and I don’t expect it to. But my goal is to make my heart bigger, so the hole won’t seem so big. Since losing her I’ve tried to do good deeds, to reach out to others in tragedy. Maybe it’s a little selfish, because I know the more you give, the more you help yourself.”

Anna said she tries to reach out to others going through trauma and tragedy, but she’s learned there are no words to be said.

After the tragedy at Columbine, Anna said her first visitor was a friend who was known for being a motormouth.

“I thought, `please just go away.’ I wasn’t sleeping or eating. Sometimes I’d forget to breathe. If Lauren wasn’t doing it, I didn’t want to do it. But my friend sat next to me. She didn’t say a word. Every now and then, she’d get me a glass of water.”

Anna said it was a great lesson.

“To help others, just sit with them. There’s not a word you can say that will mean a thing.”

Anna is proud of Columbine’s new atrium that replaced the library where Lauren died.

“It forces you to look up.”



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