Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 31, 2003

Columbine survivor to speak in Winsted

By Ryan Gueningsman

It takes an extraordinary person to take a tragedy like the Columbine shootings and turn it into something positive.

Lauren Bohn, 19, now of Hutchinson, has been able to do just that.

Through speaking about witnessing the shootings, and the profession of her friend's faith when asked if she believed in God, and replying "Yes," seconds before being shot to death, Bohn feels that the whole situation has made her a stronger person.

She will share her experience and how it has impacted her life at St. John's Lutheran Church in Winsted Thursday, April 3 at 7 p.m.

That fateful day

She was just a freshman in her first year at Columbine High School in Littleton Colo. when on April 20, 1999, two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, brought machine guns to school and shot and killed 12 students and one teacher.

"I had just gotten out of gym class and was headed down towards the cafeteria to eat lunch with my girlfriends at the time," she said. "There were roughly 200 kids in there."

She next remembers seeing teacher David Sanders and a janitor running through the cafeteria telling people to "get underneath the tables and cover your heads."

"I remember his (Sanders) face ­ it was very, very pale," she said. "We crawled under the tables and we started giggling 'cause we thought it was a fire drill ­ we didn't know what was going on."

About two minutes later, she heard a young man scream loudly, "He has a gun, he has a gun ­ everybody run."

"By that time, there was already a mass of kids that were running, and pushing, and shoving," she said. "I turned around and looked in the direction everyone was running from, and I couldn't see Eric or Dylan. I couldn't see them or hear any gun shots, but people kept saying, "Come on, we gotta get out of here."

She grabbed her friend's hand and began running with the crowd. They started running up towards the main level of the school and eventually reached the top step.

"A teacher opened her door and scolded us, asking us what was going on, and why everyone was yelling," she said. "Just after that, the first shot went off, it was really quick, and everyone froze.

"I turned around and looked back down in the cafeteria, and everyone down there stopped and looked back at us like "What was going on?"

"It was a definite machine gun," she said. "It was very rapid. We kept running and it was like slow motion. Everything around me was blurry and not even a reality. I could tell that they were coming from behind me from the way that it was echoing."

One thing that was found out later was that Sanders had been wounded outside, but came back inside to warn the students in the cafeteria.

"He was wounded in the shoulder, and he basically bled to death in one of the science classrooms," she said. "He's a hero ­ he basically saved all of our lives."

Bohn made it outside of the building where she saw a policeman with his gun drawn. The officer was asking for information, and he told the group of students to keep running and to not look back.

Profession of faith

It wasn't until after she was safely outside the building that she learned the fate of her close friend Rachel Smith.

"She was a modern day martyr ­ she died for her faith," Bohn said. "Eric and Dylan knew very well that she was a Christian. She was the first one to die that day."

Smith was outside of the cafeteria eating lunch when she was wounded in the leg.

"She started to stumble around, trying to get away, and they both came up to her and lifted her up by her hair, literally.

"They put the gun to her head and said, 'Do you still believe in God this moment, Rachel?' and she said 'yes.'"

It is known that this took place because a young man that was laying next to her heard it. He is paralyzed today from the waist down because of injuries sustained that day.

Asking why

"The biggest mystery is what was their motive," Bohn said. "A girlfriend of mine was in the library under a table and she saw Eric. She looked into his eyes and she said 'it was like he wasn't even there, it was like he was being possessed.

"You know how they say your eyes are the window to your soul ­ it was like he had no soul."

Sharing her message

Bohn was born in Wisconsin and raised in a Christian family. She moved from her home state of Wisconsin to Colorado in 1990.

"I never really had a relationship with Christ ­ it was more like we just did this 'cause that's what the family did. After this all happened, I realized that if I died that day, I would go to heaven, but it made me realize that life was short and that I had to serve God each and every day."

"I was home-schooled from first grade all the way to my freshman year in high school," Bohn said. "So, my first year in a public school was the year that the tragedy happened."

She finished out her high-school years at Columbine, graduating in spring of 2002, and becoming engaged on the last day of her senior year to her husband Brent, who is currently the youth pastor at Riverside Assembly of God Church in Hutchinson. She is planning on attending college next year.

Bohn has traveled the country coast to coast since she was 14, talking about that day and how it has affected her.

"I began speaking about it about a month after, and that's a miracle in itself that I was able to pull myself together to do that ­ it was only by the grace of God," she said.

There were times she was gone every weekend of a month which, at times, affected her studies.

She has since spoken to more than 10,000 youth. She also attended the memorials which took place on the one and two-year anniversaries of the shootings.

This year is the first year that she will be unable to attend, because it is on Easter Sunday.

"The very first one was inside the school ­ very, very emotional and touching," she said. The next two took place in the park near the school.

"So much positive has come out of it," she said. "It took me deciding that I was going to make a positive situation out of a horrible thing. There are so many kids that are not right in their mind because of it."

"You're not guaranteed a tomorrow," she said. "I wake up every day just thankful for another day to serve my Lord, and one more day to basically pay Satan back for what he did.

"What Satan intended for evil, God did turn around for good."

The message that Bohn hopes to share with Winsted and the surrounding area is that no matter what situation you are in, or no matter how low you are, God can reach down and pick you up.

Bohn's presentation is open to anyone interested in attending.

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