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08/17/99- Updated 11:14 AM ET

For Lance, 'my life' without fear

By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY

If not for the spring, it would have been a different summer. But on April 20, Lance Kirklin, 16, was shot at Columbine High School, one of 23 people who were injured and survived.

Picture Gallery Photos capture Lance's extraordinary summer

Thirteen others were killed before the two teen-age gunmen ended their rampage by turning their weapons on themselves. And so tragedy made celebrities of the survivors of Columbine, perhaps no one more so than Lance, the handsome teen-ager who had the left side of his jaw blown away by a gun blast.

He has been serenaded by Aerosmith, feted by the mayor of San Francisco and hounded for autographs as he walked the streets of his hometown. He sits on the living room couch one Friday morning, the telephone rings, and suddenly the Today show is on the line.

"This is my life," he says, a little wearily, after weeks packed with photo shoots and interviews. When a San Francisco teen-ager raised thousands of dollars for Lance's medical needs, the mayor's office invited Lance and his father, Mike, to visit the city last month.

Lance flew on an airplane and rode in a limousine for the first time. He received a street sign bearing his name from Mayor Willie Brown. He ate clam chowder from a bread bowl at Fisherman's Wharf and caught a 32-pound salmon in ocean waters off San Francisco Bay.

Little Richard has prayed with him. Shania Twain has visited him and promised to keep in touch. But when the media glare subsides and quiet comes, Lance is still a teen-age boy who needs to heal.

His limp, the result of having also been shot in the leg, has disappeared. But he must have at least four more surgeries on his face to restore his appearance to 90% of what it once was. And after a summer in the spotlight, it is finally time to go back to the Littleton, Colo., school.

"I'm going to have a hard time dropping him off," Mike Kirklin says. "The hard part is, the last time I dropped him off (on April 20), I didn't get him back for 28 days."

But Lance, who will be a junior this year, has no fears.

"I don't want to wake up early," he says, "but it'll be nice to see old friends." And what of his fame? "It's going to die down. Give it a month. But at least I'll have stories to tell my grandchildren."


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