Columbine Tragedy: 20 years later

'People heal on their own schedule'

Heather Martin and Missy Mendo, student survivors


Heather Martin and Missy Mendo are members of a small but growing group: survivors of a mass shooting.

The two were students the day of the Columbine tragedy, and they escaped uninjured. But in the years that followed, they found themselves repeatedly retraumatized with news of more massacres.

After the Aurora theater tragedy in 2012, they and other Columbine survivors came together to create the Rebels Project, a support group for survivors of mass shootings.

“It's a rough road,” Martin said. “You need support from people who get it.”

Among the advice they give fellow survivors: “Your path is always right on time,” Mendo said. “Some people think you should get over it at a certain time, but people heal on their own schedule.”

Finding support is crucial, Martin said, and “isolation is very dangerous.”

Though both said they wish they could undo the events of 1999, they're proud of how far they've come.

“I own my story,” said Martin, a public school teacher in Aurora. “I tell my story. It helps my students feel more comfortable with me so I can connect them with resources. The event doesn't define me, but my resilience does.”


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