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Columbine Students Head Back To Class at Nearby High School

By Lorraine Adams
THE WASHINGTON POST -- LITTLETON, Colo.

In the noon sunshine, Columbine High’s students assembled at their rivals’ school. The first day back looked more like a pep rally than a solemn return: Most students wore Columbine colors, navy blue and silver. There were even balloons.

But it wasn’t as easy as that. Teenagers drove to their temporary haven at Chatfield High School in Jeeps and Broncos with painted windows vowing “We will go on.” Two Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies on motorcycles and one state police patrol car stood guard. Three mothers watched over the school’s main crosswalk, passing out leaflets on how to handle the media.

About 2,000 Columbine students returned to school just before 1 p.m. Monday for the first time since the shootings two weeks ago that left 15 dead and 21 injured in an afternoon of bombs, gunfire and mocking nihilism.

The Columbine school building -- still strewn with students’ backpacks, textbooks, and the detritus of the violence -- remains closed for evidence gathering and is not expected to reopen until September. Chatfield’s own students attended classes in the morning; the split-day schedule will continue through the end of the school year on May 27.

For some students, the return to school -- even one not their own -- was a welcome stab at normalcy after a week of 15 funerals and an avalanche of media attention. For others, the day was terrifying, and came too soon after the carnage.

“I’m scared,” said Margot Brown, a freshman who was in the library and was saved from the worst only because she forgot her ruler in the cafeteria and went to retrieve it. “I’ve always been scared since that Tuesday. You never know when something is going to happen. I don’t care how many people are watching over us. I’m still scared.”

Five of Brown’s Columbine classmates remain hospitalized. Police Monday arrested a 22-year-old man who allegedly supplied the killers, students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, with a semiautomatic weapon they used in the massacre. And school authorities asked students friendly with the two gunmen to stay away from Chatfield.