Mark and Wendy’s Excellent Adventure: Columbine memorial stunning

Editor’s note: Mark Bradford is contributing occasional posts from his diary on traveling the country with his wife Wendy while they rent out their Mishawaka home for six months.

Day 73 of our 190 day sojourn

September 6, 2023  —  Littleton, Colorado

I did not recall any of their names, I was simply startled by the fact that, today, they would all be in their early 40s and raising kids and drinking beer, and arguing with their spouses and buying cars and texting their friends and all those other mundane things that we take for granted but they never got to do.

One young man named Matthew Kechter was only 17 on that horrible day in April of 1999 when he was gunned down by two madboys in Columbine High School.

That’s right, 1999.

April 20, 2024 will mark the 25th anniversary of the day that should have changed America but never did. 

Matthew Kechter was an oldest son of a happy family and played JV football for Columbine High in the days before the massacre and now he would be 41. That’s forty-effing-one for those of us who care.

To Wendy and I, it seems like the massacre was only five years ago, but time does fly, doesn’t it? 

Just not for Matt Kechter and 11 of his classmates.

Today, Wendy and I decided to go to see the Denver Botanical Gardens, but the one we were going to see was closed. We had just gassed up the car and so we were trying to figure out what to do. Wendy suggested we go see the Columbine Memorial.

A few years back, we went to see the memorial to United Flight 93, which crashed on 9-11 after passengers fought back against the terrorists and that was moving. This memorial is much smaller, much simpler, and just as moving.

We were “again stunned.” It struck us, “again,” that 12 names on the wall were just kids, each of them doing the right thing. They were in school being normal, just before abnormal struck. 

Two madboys, 20 minutes, 13 dead.

As we stood in the memorial, which is about the size of a basketball court it all came back to us. The open-air memorial sits in Robert F. Clement Park, which is just north of the high school. The memorial is designed to overlook the high school yet not be seen from the high school. 

The park itself is wonderful with the usual paths and playgounds and picnic shelters but the location of the memorial seems to remind people that, even as the children play, there exists in the human race, a certain number of people without souls … or maybe people who are just plain evil … or maybe people who can’t discern good from bad … or maybe people who have lost all hope and believe that things of this life really are as bad as the negative media wants us to believe.

You get to decide for yourself what drove these madboys to up-and-kill 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves. You get to decide why, just last year, another 21 people died at the hands of another mad-man in Uvalde. 

And you get to decide, despite all the “our prayers are with you” and “substantial progress” crap we hear from our government, why nothing of any substance has been done to curb the distribution of automatic weapons designed for war to the general public, including teenagers.

As we stood there, reading the histories of the students and the quotes from the survivors, the thought came to me that right now, somewhere in our great land, someone is planning the next massacre.

I wonder who the next Matthew Kechter will be. And I wonder what that memorial will look like.

And, as the song goes, “there ain’t nuthin’ I can do about it.”