Columbine honours 13 lost on anniversary

Communities and survivors have gathered to remember the Columbine High School massacre 20 years ago.
Communities and survivors have gathered to remember the Columbine High School massacre 20 years ago.

Community members in suburban Denver have marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting by volunteering at shelters, doing neighbourhood clean-up projects and laying flowers and cards at a memorial to the 13 people killed.

The events end a three-day slate of sombre gatherings honouring the victims and lending support to their families, survivors of the April 20, 1999 attack and the school's students and staff.

Starting in the morning, a steady stream of visitors stopped at a memorial that sits on a hill overlooking the school. The site includes an oval outer wall of stone with plaques featuring quotes from officials and Columbine students and teachers, and an inner ring with plaques for the teacher and 12 students killed.

People walked silently through, occasionally stopping to hug a friend or wipe away tears.

They left flowers, cards and seed packets for columbines, the Colorado state flower. Sheriff's deputies patrolled the area on foot and by bike on a warm day as little league games went on at nearby fields.

Elsewhere, Columbine students, staff and others took part in community service projects, including volunteering at homeless shelters and doing spring cleaning at the homes of senior citizens and elsewhere.

People later gathered for a remembrance ceremony near the school.

Speakers stressed the strength and change that came out of the tragedy. To symbolise that, artist Makoto Fujimura presented a 17th century Japanese tea bowl that was broken but then mended with gold, making it better and more beautiful.

Pastor James Hoxworth urged anyone who was still struggling because of the shooting to reach out for help.

The days surrounding the anniversary remain emotionally fraught for survivors of the attack, including hundreds who escaped the building without physical wounds.

Some describe their response to the month as an "April fog" dominated by their memories of the sunny Tuesday two decades ago that shocked the world.

This week brought a new burden as federal authorities led a manhunt for a Florida teen "infatuated" with the shooting.

On Tuesday, authorities published her name and photo after learning she was obsessed with Columbine and had travelled to Colorado and bought a gun.

The 18-year-old was discovered dead after apparently taking her own life that morning in the foothills west of Denver, about 64 kilometres from Columbine.

Long-planned events marking the anniversary continued as scheduled, beginning with a Thursday evening church service and a community vigil Friday night at the memorial.

The Columbine perpetrators, who took their own lives during the attack, have inspired cult-like admirers including some who have committed other shootings or were prevented from doing so.

Australian Associated Press