April 20 marks the two-year anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. CT senior writer Wendy Murray Zoba reported on the immediate aftermath of the shootings in her award-winning cover story, "Do You Believe in God?" (CT, Oct. 4, 1999). In her new book, Day of Reckoning: Columbine and the Search for America's Soul (Brazos), Zoba explores the incident in-depth, particularly its influence on questions of church and state. This is an exclusive excerpt.
When I returned to Littleton in January 2000, six months after my initial trip, I sensed that healing was taking place. The grief, though evident, was not as raw, and the community seemed more normal. The families of those who had died had navigated the first holiday season without their loved ones, and the survivors had reconfigured their lives, learning to live in wheelchairs, with leg braces, with disfiguring scars, or with chronic pain from bullets too deep to remove.
The healing of internal wounds was less measurable and more complicated. Columbine High School's status as a public institution placed limits on what healing activities could be officially sanctioned. Notions such as "educating" kids to respect others and learning "tolerance" abounded at the school. Official references to prayer, use of religious symbols, and discussions about God were not part of the conversation. It didn't take long before religion became the flashpoint of controversy, first locally and later in broader spheres. The discussion assumed a cantankerous tone following the community memorial service five days after the massacre, and it intensified a larger national debate.
Whose Service Is It?
The community memorial ...1
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