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Columbine honours victims on 20th anniversary of school massacre

World News | Published:

Thirteen people were killed in the shootings on April 20 1999.

People have marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in suburban Denver by attending a remembrance ceremony.

The event ends three days of sombre gatherings honouring the victims and lending support to their families, survivors of the attack on April 20 1999 and the school’s students and staff.

Starting on Saturday morning, a steady stream of visitors stopped at a memorial that sits on a hill overlooking the school.

Columbine anniversary
People pay their respects at the Columbine Memorial (AP)

People walked silently through, occasionally stopping to hug a friend or wipe away tears.

Other visitors left cards, bouquets and seed packets for columbines, the Colorado state flower, around the plaques. Sheriff’s deputies patrolled the area on foot and by bike as little league baseball games went on at nearby fields.

Elsewhere, Columbine students, staff and others took part in community service projects, including volunteering at homeless shelters and doing spring cleaning at the homes of senior citizens and elsewhere.

People later gathered for a remembrance ceremony near the school.

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Columbine
Floral tributes were left for the 13 people who were killed (AP)

Pastor James Hoxworth urged anyone who was still struggling because of the shooting to reach out for help.

The days surrounding the anniversary remain emotionally fraught for survivors of the attack, including hundreds who escaped the building without physical wounds.

Some describe their response to the month as an “April fog”, dominated by their memories of the sunny Tuesday two decades ago that shocked the world.

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Columbine anniversary
Crosses bearing the names of the victims of the massacre (AP)

On Tuesday, authorities published her name and photo after learning she was obsessed with Columbine and had travelled to Colorado and bought a gun. They said she had not made specific threats, but dozens of schools, including Columbine, locked their doors.

More than 400,000 children stayed home on Wednesday when schools shut down across the metro area. The 18-year-old was later found dead in the foothills west of Denver, about 40 miles from Columbine.

Long-planned events marking the anniversary continued as scheduled, beginning with a Thursday evening church service and a community vigil on Friday night at the memorial.

The Columbine perpetrators, who took their own lives during the attack, have inspired cult-like admirers including some who have committed other shootings or were prevented from doing so.

Officials overseeing security at Columbine and other schools in Jefferson County acknowledged the dark interest this week and warned off those who would treat the school as a destination.

“We are not a place to come visit if you’re not a student, if you don’t have business there,” John McDonald, security chief for the school district, said on Wednesday.

“We’re not a tourist attraction, and we’re not a place for you to come and gain inspiration.”

Security remained heightened at Denver-area schools throughout the week.

People who plan to attend the public remembrance ceremony on Saturday afternoon at a park near Columbine also have been warned of security checkpoints. The high school itself is closed to the public.

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