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Fellow victim helps returning student

By Kevin Simpson
Denver Post Staff Writer

Sept. 9 - There was a bit of an awkward moment on her first day back at Columbine High School on Tuesday, but Anne Marie Hochhalter says it didn't last long - thanks to good friend and fellow school-shooting victim Patrick Ireland.

"I went into the classroom, rolled to my seat and (the teacher) Mr. Manuello introduced me,'' said Hochhalter, 17, who returned in a wheelchair after gunshot wounds from the April 20 massacre paralyzed her below the waist. "Before that, it was kind of awkward; I don't think they knew what to say or do.

"Then Patrick broke the ice by saying, "Hi, Anne Marie!' ''

Ireland and Hochhalter underwent rehabilitation together at Craig Hospital, along with Sean Graves and Richard Castaldo, who both also returned to school on Tuesday for the first time since being injured in the rampage.

Hochhalter is taking just one class, physics, but said she might try to add classes as she feels stronger. She was thrilled with the reception she got from classmates.

"It was really great,'' Hochhalter said. "They all crowded around me, all happy to see me back. I was a little nervous, but it turned out to be just fine.''

Castaldo, 17, also navigates the school in a wheelchair. He's taking physics and humanities, but also has a home tutor schooling him in trigonometry.

Two nights a week he practices with the marching band. He said he plays his tuba in the "pit,'' where the large percussion instruments are stationed.

"It was pretty much school as usual,'' he said.

"It went well, but he had to get up earlier than normal, so he couldn't watch Jay Leno,'' added Richard's father, Rick Castaldo. "That was his biggest disappointment.''

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