12 Students and Teacher Killed in Columbine School Shooting Remembered at 25th Anniversary Vigil

Roses and candles sit on chairs for each of the shooting victims during a 25th Year Remembrance ceremony on April 19, 2024 at First Baptist Church of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images/AFP)
Roses and candles sit on chairs for each of the shooting victims during a 25th Year Remembrance ceremony on April 19, 2024 at First Baptist Church of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images/AFP)
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12 Students and Teacher Killed in Columbine School Shooting Remembered at 25th Anniversary Vigil

Roses and candles sit on chairs for each of the shooting victims during a 25th Year Remembrance ceremony on April 19, 2024 at First Baptist Church of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images/AFP)
Roses and candles sit on chairs for each of the shooting victims during a 25th Year Remembrance ceremony on April 19, 2024 at First Baptist Church of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images/AFP)

A girl who wrote in her diaries, a boy with learning disabilities who was just learning to like who he was and a teen who would spend every free minute fishing were among the 13 victims of the Columbine High School shooting remembered during a vigil Friday on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the shooting that was the worst the nation had seen at the time.

As small candles flickered on 13 empty chairs, short biographies of Columbine students Rachel Scott, Kyle Velasquez and Corey DePooter and the other victims were read one by one. After each, the crowd of about 150 people replied together “never forgotten” and a bell tolled.

The youngest killed in the attack that has inspired dozens of copycat shootings was Steven Curnow, 14. The oldest was teacher Dave Sanders, 47, who shepherded students out of the cafeteria to safety and was shot as he tried to get students upstairs into classrooms.

The others killed were Cassie Bernall, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Dan Rohrbaugh, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin and Lauren Townsend.

Sanders' daughter, Coni Sanders, said her father changed the world forever by saving hundreds of students.

“The kids that he saved now have children and those children will have children so generations from now people will know they exist because of his bravery,” she said before the ceremony began.

The gathering, set up by advocates including gun safety organizations, was the main public event marking Saturday's anniversary, which is more subdued than previous milestone years. In addition to remembering those killed, the vigil at a church near the state Capitol also drew attention to those who were wounded and those who survived the shooting but suffered trauma.

Daniel Mauser's father, Tom Mauser, decided to set up the vigil after learning school officials did not plan to organize a large community event as they did on the 20th anniversary.

Mauser, who became a gun safety advocate after the shooting, urged the crowd of about 150 people gathered at a church across from the state Capitol never to forget the victims of Columbine and to take some kind of action to reduce gun violence.

“And most importantly we ask you to never forget, never forget the victims of Columbine. The slain, the injured, the traumatized and their families. And especially never forget those who lost their lives,” said Mauser, wearing his son's sneakers, a tradition he reserves for special occasions.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who began campaigning for gun safety after she was nearly killed in a mass shooting, attended and spoke about her long recovery, drawing a comparison to the small steps needed to make change in the world.

“Change doesn't happen overnight and we can't do it alone. Join me. Let's move ahead together,” she said, drawing a standing ovation.

Nathan Hochhalter, whose sister Anne Marie was paralyzed after she was shot at Columbine, spoke about being trapped in a classroom at the school with about 30 students as they heard gunfire nearby. They were rescued about four hours later by SWAT officers who he said frisked them five times. Six months later, his mother, who had bipolar disorder, took her own life after asking to look at a gun in a pawnshop and shooting herself there.

“I just want to use this moment to let everyone know that it’s OK to ask for help, whatever your situation is whether, either as a survivor 25 years later or someone struggling with any part of their life. These things come in waves and they can hit you when you least expect it. You should all know that we’re all here for you and that you're not alone,” Hochhalter said.



Hollywood Movies Rarely Reflect Climate Change Crisis. These Researchers Want to Change That

This image released by Netflix shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky in a scene from "Don't Look Up." (Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP)
This image released by Netflix shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky in a scene from "Don't Look Up." (Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP)
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Hollywood Movies Rarely Reflect Climate Change Crisis. These Researchers Want to Change That

This image released by Netflix shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky in a scene from "Don't Look Up." (Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP)
This image released by Netflix shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky in a scene from "Don't Look Up." (Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP)

Aquaman might not mind if the oceans rise, but moviegoers might.

That's one of the takeaways from a new study conducted by researchers who set out to determine if today's Hollywood blockbusters are reflective of the current climate crisis. The vast majority of movies failed the “climate reality check” proposed by the authors, who surveyed 250 movies from 2013 to 2022.

The test is simple — the authors looked to see if a movie presented a story in which climate change exists, and whether a character knows it does. One film that passed the test was the 2017 superhero movie Justice League, in which Jason Momoa's Aquaman character says, “Hey, I don't mind if the oceans rise” to Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne, The AP reported.

But most movies fell short — fewer than 10% of the 250 films passed, and climate change was mentioned in two or more scenes of fewer than 4% of the films. That's out of touch with a moviegoing public that wants “to see their reality reflected on screen,” said Colby College English professor Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, lead researcher on the study.

“The top line is just that the vast majority of films, popular films produced over the last 10 years in the United States, are not portraying the world as it is,” Schneider-Mayerson said. “They are portraying a world that is now history or fantasy — a world in which climate change is not happening.”

Researchers at Maine's Colby College published the study in April along with Good Energy, a Los Angeles-based environmental consultancy. The results were peer reviewed, and the authors are seeking publication in scientific journals. The researchers view the test as a way for audience members, writers and filmmakers to evaluate the representation of climate change on screen.

Some results were surprising. Movies that at first glance appear to have little overlap with climate or the environment passed the test. Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach's emotive 2019 drama about the collapse of a relationship, passed the test in part because Adam Driver's character is described as “energy conscious,” Schneider-Mayerson said.

The 2022 whodunnit Glass Onion and the 2019 folk horror movie Midsommar were others to pass the test. Some that were more explicitly about climate change, such as the 2021 satire Don't Look Up, also passed. But San Andreas, a 2015 movie about a West Coast earthquake disaster, and The Meg, a 2018 action movie set in the ocean, did not.

The authors narrowed the selection of movies by excluding films not set on Earth or set before 2006 or after 2100. They found streaming services had a higher percentage of movies that included climate change than the major studios did.

The study is “valuable for marketing purposes, informational purposes, data accumulation,” said Harry Winer, director of sustainability at the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. Winer, who was not involved in the study, said it could also help serve as an incentive to connect audiences with climate stories.

“The audience will be more open to hearing a dialogue about what is right and what is wrong,” Winer said. “It's a conversation starter.”

The study authors said they see the climate reality check as a kind of Bechdel-Wallace test for climate change. Alison Bechdel, a cartoonist, is credited with popularizing that test in the 1980s by incorporating her friend Liz Wallace's test about gender representation in film into a comic strip. The test asks if a movie includes at least two female characters who have a conversation about something other than a man.

Bechdel herself spoke highly of the study's climate test, which she described as “long overdue” in a social media post during this year's Academy Awards season. Bechdel said in an e-mail to The AP that “for a movie set in the present to ignore this existential threat just doesn't make sense anymore" in the age of climate change.

“I do worry that screenwriters might do it in a kind of rote way, which could be counterproductive, just like rote ‘strong female characters’ are," Bechdel said. "But injecting an awareness of our communal plight into the stories we ingest seems like a no-brainer.”