Columbine massacre remembered, 20 years on

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Twelve students and a teacher were killed on April 20, 1999, when two teenagers armed with an assortment of weapons and home-made bombs went on the rampage at the Columbine high school. PHOTO: REUTERS

LITTLETON, United States (AFP) - Dozens of people gathered on Friday (April 19) on the 20th anniversary of the Columbine high school massacre, many still angry that the authorities have done little to prevent copycat killings in the years since.

Twelve students and a teacher were killed on April 20, 1999, when two teenagers armed with an assortment of weapons and homemade bombs went on the rampage at the school, whose name has become synonymous with school shootings.

"You would have thought someone would have come with more gun laws or require a mental health workout before you are allowed to buy a gun," said Ms Amanda Duran, who was 15 when the attack happened.

"But nothing of that sort happened. So I have just been angry and pissed off."

Only last year, 17 students and staff were killed when a former pupil went on the rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, while 27 people, mostly children, were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012 and 32 at Virginia Tech university in 2007.

There have been more than a dozen other shootings at schools across the US since Columbine.

On Friday, survivors of the massacre and families and friends of the victims gathered for a vigil in Littleton, Colorado.

They lit candles and prayed at a memorial in the town, and laid flowers on a shrine bearing the names of victims.

"Never forget" is carved in stone.

Ms Duran vividly recalled the shooting, which took place while she was in the library, waiting for an appointment with a school counsellor.

Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold burst into the room and started shooting.

"I hear this 'boom' right next to me, when they'd shot the girl next to me," she remembers.

"I went deaf at that point and I thought for sure that I was going to be next." "So I curled up really, really tight, put my arms above me like this and just kinda held my breath, braced myself to get shot in the ribs. Just waited, waited." The two gunmen killed themselves as police closed in.

The aftermath of Columbine is still felt today.

An American teenager whose obsession with the massacre set off school closures and a manhunt in Denver was found dead on Wednesday from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Mr Dean Phillips, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Denver office, said 18-year-old Sol Pais had made comments in the past that expressed "an infatuation" with the Columbine massacre and its perpetrators.

The authorities had mounted a massive search for Pais after she travelled from Florida to Colorado, bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition.

Colorado authorities, who said Pais was armed and considered "extremely dangerous", had ordered around half a million students to stay at home "due to ongoing safety concerns".

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