Time helps heal wounds from tragedy
April 19, 2009
SUMMIT COUNTY ” On Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Columbine High School senior Katie Kompinski (now Katie Novak), was in the choir room when she heard a gunman was in the school.
“We didn’t exactly know what was going on,” she said. “People started running up the stairs and screaming. We had no idea who was in the school.”
Half the students in the choir room went to the auditorium, she said, and the other half went into the teacher’s office. Novak was trapped for three hours.
“We barricaded ourselves in the choir teacher’s room until the SWAT team came,” Novak said. “Sixty people crammed into the office, and some of the boys decided to put two big teacher’s desks against the door because it was glass. … When the SWAT team walked us out of the school, we saw lockers bashed in, and the cafeteria was flooded. We had to step over a dead body just outside of the cafeteria.”
The Columbine High School massacre occurred in Littleton. Two students ” Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ” killed 12 students and a teacher, and wounded 23 others before committing suicide.
Looking back on the tragedy, Novak said that she learned how to deal with the circumstances, move forward and not stay angry at the past.
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“I didn’t want to believe it happened,” Novak said. “Going through the whole thing was really, really hard. It’s definitely something you’ll always be dealing with. You just learn to move forward, to move along with your life.”
Since high school, Novak attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned a degree in economics. After moving to Summit County in 2003, she married her college sweetheart, Ryan Novak, three years ago. She expects her first child July 3.
“I don’t want to ever hold my child back,” she said. “I want (her) to always feel comfortable to talk to me or someone at school about any problems that they’re having.”
Novak isn’t nervous to send her child to one particular school over another ” “It can happen anywhere.”
“Above all, a situation like Columbine just makes you realize how precious life is, and to cherish every moment,” she said.
According to Novak, people should take media reports on the Columbine massacre with a grain of salt.
“Not everything that was said was necessarily true,” she said. “There’s lots of things that went on with those individuals (Harris and Klebold) that people don’t know about.”
Novak will attend a Columbine memorial today at 5 p.m. in the amphitheater at Clement Park in Littleton.
“I want people to learn from the experience,” she said. “There’s a lot of different ways to deal with people that you think are giving you a hard time rather than to just kill them.”
Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.