Littleton tragedy hits `too close to home’ |

Littleton tragedy hits `too close to home’

Allyn Harvey

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s bloodbath at a high school in Littleton, some local students were left wondering about their own safety.

“All they were saying on the television was how something like that couldn’t happen in Littleton,” noted Basalt High School senior Wayne Stahlman. “It makes you wonder about here.”

Basalt sophomore Cassidy Pokorny said she spent Wednesday afternoon worrying about a friend who attends Columbine High School, where two students clad in trench coats went on a five-hour rampage with guns and explosives.

“He watched like three kids get shot,” Pokorny said of her friend, who apparently escaped harm by climbing into a crawl space in the ceiling.

“It’s so close to home,” said senior Will Loushin. “It’s way too close to home.”

Students, teachers, school administrators and local police spent much of yesterday coming to terms with Tuesday’s tragedy in Littleton, which left at least 15 people dead and more than 20 injured. (For more on the events in Littleton, see page 6.)

Aspen High School is not in session this week, but at Aspen Middle School, teachers began yesterday morning by talking about the tragedy with their students. “Each teacher began by taking the temperature of their class,” said Principal Griff Smith.

Students and teachers talked about the causes and effects of the tragedy and others like it, and the value of being respectful and kind. “By about a half-hour into school,” Smith said, “classes were back to normal.”

Smith said no students have been caught with guns on campus while he’s been at the middle school, although one got in trouble a few years ago for bringing a pocket knife.

Aspen Country Day School began the day with an assembly.

“We talked about the inner rage that those boys must have felt and stressed how important it is to talk about things openly when you’re not having a good day,” said ACDS Principal John Suitor. “We talked about the finality of what happened and how wonderful it is to be alive.”

At Basalt High School, the day began with an address from the principal that was followed by a moment of silence to reflect on what happened in Littleton, said English teacher Werner Anderson. Teachers and students discussed the incident in class, and at least one group of students met at lunchtime to discuss the incident amongst themselves.

“Some of our older students are pretty upset – obviously distressed,” Anderson said. “Others seem less affected.”

All three schools are offering counseling for students who are having a hard time dealing with the killings.

Representatives from local police departments met with school administrators in Aspen and Basalt yesterday to discuss what happened in Littleton and reassure each other that they are prepared to deal with disasters of all kinds.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said he and local juvenile officers traditionally have worked closely with the schools, keeping an eye on troubled youths and maintaining a friendly relationship with students in general.

“I wish there was one problem we could identify before something like this happens and fix it,” said Basalt Police Sergeant Chris Maniscalchi.

Justin Ortell, a senior at Basalt High School, wasn’t willing to discount the possibility that what happened in Littleton could happen here, especially in light of the mistreatment some of his schoolmates endure.

“I’ve thought about a couple of kids who could do that,” Ortell said, recounting one boy who is ridiculed into tears nearly everyday. “Kids are mean. They can push other kids to the verge of snapping – anytime.”

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