The last few weeks have been hard. I felt this day closing in on me like it does every year. Over time, I have been able to focus on life instead of this one day, but that tends to change starting in March. I notice that’s when my mood starts to change, things start to get more difficult. I try to brush it off blaming it on stress at work and at home, but the truth is, it’s just the anniversary coming around again. I didn’t want this. I never wanted to be the “first” in a never-ending reel of tragedy and ever morphing law enforcement responses to those tragedies. But I am. I was thrust into that category against my will due to someone else’s uncontrolled entitlement and rage that destroyed hundreds of lives in the span of 11 minutes. I do my best to not think about this day, to remember, but what I’ve learned over the last 16 years is that you can’t pretend that the most destructive and chaotic day in your life doesn’t exist. Pretending that April 20, 1999 was just another day in my life, another day closer to graduation, the few days after the fun of prom is wearing off, is not fair. Pretending that this anniversary is nothing more than another day takes away from all of us who still live with the scars, visible and invisible, every single day. This day devastated innocence, childhood, and shattered any feelings of safety and security that everyone has the right to experience. So I am not pretending this day is any other. Today is hard. I want to avoid all reminders of what happened, but I try to convince myself that I can handle it. The truth is, when I got on Facebook today, I was doing just that. I knew what I would find in the feeds of my Columbine friends, but I thought that I would be ok this time. What I realize, is that no matter how much time has or will pass, today will always be hard. My heart will always catch in my throat when I read and see the names of those innocent who lost their lives that day. I will always remember what I experienced, those intrusive flashbacks that still haunt me, though not as much now. I was forever changed on that day, and to pretend that I wasn’t doesn’t validate all the pain and fighting I’ve done to put the pieces of my life back together. Thank God that April 20, 1999 wasn’t the end of my story. Even though the immeasurable evil that tried to win and destroy that day created permanent scars in my soul, I am an overcomer. The one thing demonstrated that day was that the power of God to bring redemption and healing from something so horrific will forever be more powerful than anything the enemy can try to do to us. We are more than conquerors through the grace and redemption of the blood of Christ. That is something that NO ONE will ever be able to take away from us. Many things in this life are out of our control, but God already won this victory. In the end, God wins and the enemy will forever be defeated! This is why I stand tall today. I know what the intention was on that day from those two who chose violence and evil over rational thought and selflessness, but I also know that their intent was never visualized. They did not succeed in doing what they intended to do. The innocent that lost their lives that day, I don’t have any explanation for why it was their time and not mine, although if it wasn’t for the voice of my guardian angel telling me to duck, it may have been my time as well, but I do know that I will no longer live in fear. I will no longer let that day control my present. I am victorious with Christ and I will forever hold on to that truth. This day will always be hard. I will always start to feel off until this month passes, but I won’t always feel that the events of that day control my mind or my soul. For those of us who are struggling, whether or not we got the help we needed, there IS hope for freedom from the pain and chaos that day created in your life. You can be free.