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Published Thursday, April 6, 2000

Columbine Students Ready To Move On

By ROBERT WELLER / Associated Press Writer

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) -- Students and teachers have a message for the outside world as the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre approaches: Thank you for everything. Now please leave us alone.

Mike Sheehan, student body president, urged well-wishers to send donations to other causes, rather than flooding nearby Clement Park with flowers again.

" We really want to thank the world, " Sheehan said. " But we kind of want it to be a private day."

A group of 26 students and faculty members met with media members Wednesday night in an event set up by the school district. It was to be the only organized meeting for reporters before April 20, the one-year anniversary of the rampage that left 12 students, one teacher and teen gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold dead.

Tears flowed freely during the 90-minute session, at which counselors sat behind a curtain, ready to come to students' aid.

" It' s hard to move on when you have a vanload of people coming into the parking lot and taking pictures of where the library used to be, or coming up to you and asking you where the library is, " senior Sarah Bay said. " Having pictures taken of where people died makes it hard."

Authorities have said tens of thousands of people could converge on the park outside the high school for the anniversary.

Some of the 23 people wounded in the attack, as well as some relatives of the dead, have told friends they plan to leave before the anniversary to avoid requests for interviews.

" It' s becoming harder and harder as we approach April 20. I have knots in my stomach. It' s hard to sleep, " said Courtney Shakowski, a senior.

Shakowski and several students and teachers made clear the school -- where reporters are not normally allowed -- has become a sort of sanctuary.

Technology teacher Rich Long recalled seeing Anne-Marie Hochhalter in the halls with a smile on her face. Hochhalter remains paralyzed from her wounds, and her mother committed suicide last fall.

" Our family is the school. When I go there I know I am going to get support, " said math teacher Alma Moore.

Sheehan said, " Sometimes it' s tough just to walk down the halls. But when someone falls down, someone picks them up."

Others have been equally inspired.

" One of my best friends is Pat Ireland. Watching him heal has healed me, " Matt Varney said. Ireland can walk but his range of motion is restricted.

Varney' s voice broke as he added: " He can' t do what he did before. He' s such a tough guy ... Those two guys (Harris and Klebold) took away so much from him."

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