Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Growing up in the wake of Columbine

From the Editor


September 26, 2019

When I was in second grade at a school in Virginia Beach, Virginia, I remember a young boy about my age being taken out of school in handcuffs. It was in the wake of the Columbine shooting in 1999. It’s so long ago that I’m sure I have the details wrong, but from what little I can remember, he had gotten up in front of his class and threatened to kill them all. The school went into lockdown. The authorities were called. The boy was hauled out by officers.

My school was one that took on the “zero-tolerance” policy. We had an art program on the computer (Kid Pix) that had a little bomb you could use to clear the artwork on the screen. That was banned. You couldn’t say bomb or anything related to it. Kids got in trouble for having plastic knives at lunch. Lockdowns seemed frequent. The hallways had these gated metal doors that would come down to block off sections.

My family ended up moving to Minnesota partway through third grade. It was a cultural shock when I discovered my new school’s team was the Barnum “Bombers.” Suddenly that taboo word was common. The other kids didn’t understand my confusion and hesitation about it. The intense pressure from being at a school in a metropolitan area wore off. Things like school shootings and bomb threats didn’t happen up here. Things were quiet. To me as a young kid, the danger disappeared. What happened at Columbine was a distant thing, a rare occurrence, and it would never happen again. It was a singular moment in history.

What I hadn’t known at the time was that it wasn’t the first time. And it certainly wasn’t the last. I’m no longer ignorant of the violence out in the world and close to home.

And what’s worse? Neither are today’s children.

At some point, a singular rare tragedy in history became not completely unexpected. As a reporter and human, I don’t like fear mongering. Believe me, I wish we could all live peaceful, happy lives. So why bring this painful sort of thing up?

The answer is simple. Acting ignorant of something does not make that something go away. I’m not saying you should be suspicious of everyone, be paranoid, and live your life on your toes. But neither can we as a society ignore what’s happening around us.

You want to be jarred back to today’s reality? Watch the PSAs released by Sandy Hook Promise at

I don’t have any children myself but I do have 11 nieces and nephews all 10 and under. Is the bliss of being ignorant worth their safety? Absolutely not. If being uncomfortably aware means they never have to experience what children at Columbine or Sandy Hook went through, then it’s worth it.


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