What Columbine Means to Me: 20 Years Later


20 years seems like a long time, but it really hasn’t been. That day is still very much burned into my mind. I remember everything like it was yesterday.

It resulted in the numbest I hope I’ll ever feel, but the day I became an “adult” nonetheless. Like being towel whipped in the face, but you don’t feel it, or how much damage it did. I mean, I had to be an adult. I had Cameras in my face with the whole country watching. I was an 18 year old kid. Being asked at every place we went, “did you go to Columbine? Media outlets calling me at home and bugging me if I had tape of the shooters. (Read that sentence again. Media outlets calling me at home and bugging me if I had tape of the shooters. Yeah, still bitter about that.)

Meanwhile I was trying to figure out a couple things: Was I going to graduate high school now? What the hell is next? Are we going to go back to school, or am I a college student? Are some of my friends who didn’t die going to be ok? How many funerals can one person go to in a week?

Am I going to be ok?

Surely, this was just something I had to just get through. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t happy I wasn’t meh— this was an emotion of shutting all feelings down. All of them so I didn’t have to feel them anymore. Shut it all down until there is nothing to deal with. We didn’t really have access to ACTUAL mental health care after that. I saw a counselor because my mom made me. Weirdly, I got to meet Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen out of it... but that’s story for another beer. Eventually I got the help I needed, but it took years.

I wasn’t always this anxiety ridden, angery, PTSD having “adult.”

As a kid, I clearly lacked the sense to choose a good haircut. I played music, and was in bands (not the band, but always wish I would have done that). I made videos, and loved my video production classes. I enjoyed getting into hijinks with my friends, had very few anger issues, and just kinda took things as they came. I listened to punk music but dressed like a “jock”, I even played football. I even a cheerleader on our competition teams. I worked at Sam Goody music in southwest plaza mall. April 19th is “remember me?” day. As I was.

I had a great childhood.

The 20th anniversary of Columbine is a bit harder to deal with in a positive light. Mainly because of what happened after. I dropped out of college, even though I had a full-ride, because I couldn’t be in class. But I was too ashamed to admit that so I just told people I would go, from now on. Which, of course, was a bold face lie.

At 21 I got a job in sales at Dish Network. I was miserable but I worked my way up to a supervisory role. I couldn’t do that either, so one day I decided, with no job lined up, to quit. From there I bounced from job to job for a couple years. Then I moved— I had to. I went to Arizona, got my degree, went to Nashville and worked in the music industry mostly in tech shops and studios.

Something was missing. “Mountains and snow,” I thought. So I moved home, bought a house, and started working at the Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Canyon facility. I really thought that would be my last job. After all, my father, his father, both uncles and countless other relatives worked and retired from there. “This is just what you’re supposed to do.” I liked it about as much as anyone likes a job. I learned a ton while being there but ultimately knew it wasn’t for me. Making beer, and the challenges it presented, dominated my mind even then.

I had been making beer for many years at that point. I even had a second job at a homebrew shop. So after getting unceremoniously laid off from Lockheed Martin, I worked full-time at the home brew shop. I never looked back.

That brings us to today! I live on a beautiful 80 acre horse ranch with my lovely girlfriend. Her favorite beer is my favorite to make. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful and decorated career in beer. I have my very own brewery being built in Eldersburg, MD. Most importantly, I have a beautiful 6-year-old ginger little girl. Life is full of goodness.

Columbine is a way for me to look back and, although it’s sad, be grateful that my life has so many blessings. Not because of it, but in spite of it. Like two middle fingers in the air saying, “although you tried to drag us down, I am stronger than that. We are Stronger than that”.