Saturday, September 26, 2009

Performing in Colorado at last

I am in Boulder! After 10 years of working on "A Line in the Sand", I finally have an opportunity to perform the play for a Colorado audience. Boulder is just 45 minutes away from Columbine High School, in Littleton. I was invited to perform here as part of The Moondance International Film Festival in Boulder. This is the 10th year of the festival and the 10th anniversary year of Columbine. I have won the award for Best Stageplay, and the wonderful founder and director of the festival, Elizabeth English, invited to me to perform "A Line in the Sand" at the festival.

I have been attending networking parties and screenings, doing last minute publicity for the show, calling the families of the victims to invite them, putting together my discussion panel, trying to fit in some hiking. IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL HERE. It rained the first two days, but now it's blue, blue skies and Rocky Mountain peaks. I am staying at the base of the Flatiron mountain in Chautauqua Park. My cottage was built in 1915. There are pictures of the cottages from those days on the wall in my living room. They look like canvas tents. There's another picture of an old trolley car that used to take people around the park. Amazing history here. I met the local historian and groundskeeper, Steve. I have some video of him talking about the park. For the past 20 years, he has been in charge of renovating the cottages. The look old on the outside, but inside they have modern renovations, very charming.

It has been a bit daunting trying to get the people that I interviewed 10 years ago to come see the play. Some of the parents of the victims said they don't want to "go back there," which I completely understand. After 10 years, they want to move on and have some peace. Others are driven to try to prevent this kind of horrific loss from happening to other families. Tom Mauser, the father of Daniel Mauser, one of the 13 victims, has devoted the last 10 years to working for gun control. Please see my blog entry on Daniel to learn more about Tom's work, or go to

Tom has agreed to speak on my post show discussion panel tomorrow after the performance. Connie Michalik, mother of injured Columbine student, Richard Castaldo, will also be speaking. Both Connie and Richard appeared in Michael Moore's film, "Bowling for Columbine." In the film, they go to the Denver Kmart store with Michael Moore to ask them to stop selling bullets, and because of their efforts, Kmart doesn't sell bullets anymore.

Connie was so kind to me when I came to interview her and Richard at their home in 1999. Richard was shot outside of Columbine, along with Rachel Scott, who was killed. They were eating lunch together. Richard was paralyzed from the waist down. He was in good spirits when I spoke to him and his girlfriend at the time. After the interview, Connie invited me to go with her to Columbine High School. Richard had to attend a practice session with the marching band. Later, Connie and I talked some more at the local IHOP.

When we spoke on the phone last week, she told me that Richard is doing great. He is trying to get into sound engineering out in California. He is still paralyzed, but Connie said they are hoping that progress in stem cell research will eventually help him to walk again.

Off to hike and rehearse.

more soon with video and photos....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Reflections: April 20, 2009: Columbine, 10 years Later (Part 8)

Rachel Scott, 17

In the Spring of 2000, I heard Rachel's father, Darrell Scott, speak at a small fundraiser for a local group in Denver. There were about a hundred people in the room, at the most. Darrell was used to speaking to groups of up to 30,000 people in large public arenas. After Rachel was murdered at Columbine, Darrell and his wife, Sandy, founded Rachel's Challenge, with the following mission:

"We exist to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion."

Since it's inception, Rachel's Challenge has had the following impact in schools:

3,300 schools (high schools and middle schools)
Multiple stadium and large venue events
50 states and six countries
11,000,000 people reached with the message
Seven documented school shootings/violence prevented
Hundreds of suicides averted

The Rachel's Challenge Summit will be held in Denver, in June of 2010.

"Presentations will focus on creating a safe and productive learning environment by delivering antidotes to violence and bullying."

To learn more about Rachel's Challenge, please go to

Here is an excerpt from Darrell's talk, that I attended:

Wow, it's nice to be a living room setting. This is the smallest group I've spoken to, and I told Sandy on the way over, I said, "I think I'm more nervous." So, it's good to be here with you tonight.

So, I'm not... I don't feel motivated to give you a 30,000 people presentation because I, I just want to talk to you a little bit from my heart tonight. My, my agenda is, is, uh, is very simple. It is a spiritual agenda. Uh, I don't think that you're kids in the word today are looking for religion. In fact, they're kind of sick of it. But they are looking for real answers, and they're looking for real people to give them real answers.

Um, Columbine to me, looking back over the last 11 months is, has truly been a spiritual event.

Rachel left with us a series of journals, that would reach my knee if they were stacked from the ground up. One of them, I carry with me, and I never, uh, open this, because I don't want it to get worn out or, or the pages to get frayed. This was in her backpack the day that she was killed. There's a bullet hole that goes halfway through the diary. And it goes in at the spot where she had written on the page, "I won't be labeled as average." And on the front, she wrote these words, "I write not for the sake of glory, not for the sake of fame, not for the sake of success, but for the sake of my soul. Rachael Joy."

And Rachael poured into her journals incredible wisdom for a 17 year old. She poured into it, um, prophetic pictures, prophetic poems. You'll see why I'm saying that later on, that there was a prophetic element about the Columbine tragedy, that she drew a picture of thirty minutes before she was killed. And in the last poem that she wrote, you'll see in her own hand, a portion of that poem that deals with her relationship with God and with her school. And she says in that poem, "God, who will you give to walk with me through these halls of tragedy?"

And out of this terrible, terrible tragedy, over the last 11 months, I personally, with my own eyes, have seen tens of thousands of young people have their lives changed. And I have seen closure come to parents who lost children, come up and talk to me by the sometimes by the dozen. I've seen so much good come out of something that was so horrible. And I know that Rachel would not change anything where she's concerned, because she wanted her life to count. She didn't view herself as average.
From the time she was 12 years old, she had a very clear cut vision of what she wanted in life, and she went after it. And her two greatest desires were to be, uh, an actress and a missionary. Now you go figure that out. I don't know how those two coincide, but ironically through her death she's able.

There's interest in books. There are books that have already been written. There is one called, "Martyr's March," which is about her life, uh, and several more coming out. She'll be seen in television and, and movies, and is constantly, everywhere we go she's usually a lead story in the city that we're in.

But, um, more importantly than that, she's become a missionary. She's been used to see literary hundreds of thousands of people. Her funeral was the largest viewing audience that CNN ever had in its entire history. Um, we've received 25,000 pieces of mail, not counting the phone calls, e-mails. We are constantly, still bombarded, from all over the world, from people whose lives were affected. I used to meet people on airplanes all the time that, uh, my daughter's funeral, they watched it or it affected some member of their family. So, she did have an impact on the world. She only lived 17 years, but it was a full life, and through her death she accomplished things that she wrote about and dreamed about.

So, I want you just to meet Rachel, um, in pictures, Her middle name is Joy, and she was a joy to everybody that knew her. This is from when she was little. (He shows a slide) And you'll notice the tilting of the head. She does this in almost every photograph. It's like a pose that she struck, and as she got older it's almost like her hair got heavier or something, but her head tilts more and more.

Rachal was one those babies, I have five children, and she's one of those that just lights up a room when she walks in. She was the, the fireplug, you know, of our family. And, um, she just had that joy from the time she was just a tiny baby.

This was something I found that is still in her wallet, uh, in her billfold, in her purse after she died. And it's, uh, still hard for me to read. But years ago I had made her, made up little themes, and this was one of them. "Suspected to stealing little boys' hearts and definitely guilty of stealing her dad's heart." And she was guilty of that.

Rachel's mother, Beth Nimmo, started the website,
Beth has a new book out entitled, "Through a Mother's Eyes."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reflections: April 20, 2009: Columbine, 10 years Later (Part 9)

Isaiah Shoels,18

Isaiah dreamed of becoming a music executive. After graduating from Columbine, he wanted to attend an arts college.

I interviewed his parents, Michael and Vonda Shoels, in July of 2000 at there home in Houston, Texas. They had moved there, because they no longer felt comfortable living in Littleton, Colorado.

They were part of a group lawsuit filed by some of the victims' families against the parents of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Jefferson County Sherriff's Department, and Columbine High School for negligence. The lawsuits against The Jeffco Sheriff's Department and the school were dismissed by the court in 2001. The judge stated that the two entities met the claim of government immunity. Both the Harrises and the Klebolds reached a $1.56 settlement agreement with 30 families with children who were either killed or wounded in the massacre.

Here is an excerpt from my interview with Michael and Vonda:

MICHAEL: My goodness. I mean, people say that like we supposed to be doing all well and better. I mean, but we done lost...that's a big loss, you know what I'm saying? I mean, that's a part, just like a part of your body being ripped away from you, with and, you know, that part without it then treated, and you know what it does? It causes pain and irritation and, you know what I'm saying, exposure. You know, maybe it's a process, but right now, I mean, I feel like it just happened yesterday. And I don't know how long I'm going to feel that way, but you it is very painful. I didn't know there was such pain, you know what I'm saying? I didn't know pain existed like that, until after this. I mean, this is worse than any physical pain that any man could get. I mean, I rather for them to rip my arm off or my leg than to take one of my babies. So, you know, that's--this thing is real. I mean, there is no end to it. The way I feel today, there is no end. I feel just like it happened yesterday. I mean, because I can see it over and over in my mind how it was done, you know, and how it was put together, and things was ignored, and how my home was treated, you know, by this whole thing being put into process.

So, but, uh, you know, my son had his whole life in front of him, you know, and it's gone now. We never will see grandchildren from him. We never will see his real expectations of being an adult, a caring adult, where I know for sure that he'd have made a difference in the world today. His mark would have been if he would have lived anyway, so that's not the point. The point is the human side of us want him back. I mean, you can't...the pain is real. But, uh, you know, there is a spiritual side, and I just hope he's resting now, you know what I'm saying? Hope he's in a peaceful place, wherever it is.

Isaiah wanted to be in the light. And, uh, you know, he was going to take over my company. I had a production company back then, a record label, which is Notorious Records. And, uh, he would have took it over, once he finished school he'd have took it over. Because, I mean, you know, he'd been trained to do that all his life. He's been in the music all of his life really, because I've been in music ever since he's been here. So, you know, when he was reared up, you know, watching me draw up contracts and things, so really as far as I'm concerned he needed no education as far as running this company, because he knew how. He knew how to go talk to people, he knew how to scout, everything about this business he knew how to do it. I had big plans for him, and as far as I can say, I was robbed. (gestures to Vonda) We both was robbed. He will never be able to show me his greatest potential. That's something we will never see.

People should take their parenthood back. That's what it's all about. Uh, and the reason I started this, I was thinking about a promise that me and his mother made him 72 hours before this thing happened. He asked us what would we do if someone shot down all of our children. I mean he asked my wife that, out of no where. And, uh, we was going down the highway, and, uh, well I stopped the van and we both, you know, we had a conversation about it. And, uh, my wife told him that, you know, we're Christian people so we can't be vengeful because if we did what they did, went and got guns and killed them, well we wouldn't be no better than they was. And that's when we told him quotes out of the Bible, "God said let all vengeance be mine. Let all revenges be mine." And that's what we told him. Then, I turned around and told him, you know, I asked him was there anyone up there at the school bothering him or his sister or brother that was up there with him. And, you know, he constantly said no. He just told us no. So, after it was all said and done we both promised him that if anything happens to any one of his brothers or sisters by any kind of foul play that we would speak against that for the rest of our lives. I mean, we will combat it, fight it, or whatever. Physically, mentally, or whatever, we will do what we have to do to keep that from happening to anybody else. We told him this. Right then. But I never knew, I never knew that we would be honoring this 72 hours after the conversation we had with him.

So, that was my boiling point, and all I could think about was the promise that me and my wife made him three days--I mean, three days prior we had this conversation. So, that's what made me get out there and start doing what I was doing.

And it didn't make an sense of what was going on there in Colorado. I mean, my goodness, they act like we pulled the trigger. You know, they start treating us just because we asked one question: what happened in that school? And we had a right to ask what happened because of what, you know, we had son that died in that school. We had a son that died in that school, so that's what gave us the opportunity to ask about what happened. You ain't supposed to tell us to hold on, or hold off, let us go and run this investigation. That's isn't the way to talk to somebody under those circumstances. I got fed up with it. I said, you going to answer some questions. Somebody going to answer some questions, because it sound like to me you all trying to get something else together. So, what happened is I told them that, you know, I'd gotten an attorney.

And see people talking about this thing for the money. This thing is not for the money, this thing is doing the same thing as when they call civil disobedience, or whatever you want to call it. It's because I figured my son's civil rights was tampered with when he was shot down in that school, when he was slain down. And I feel like somebody has to answer to what happened in that school that day. And wasn't nobody going to say nothing until we started tampering with their pockets. You know, people, they don't care less what you say. I mean, if it don't hurt them in no kind of way. You know, because talk is only talk. But when you got tampering with their existence, and that's their money or whatever they want to call it, their security, then they start talking and being more persistent. And this is what this lawsuit is all about. They said well why are you doing it for so much? Well, if I'd have did it for $100,000 they couldn't have cared, because all of them would have chipped in together and throwed it out. Because I wouldn't have gotten no answers from that, you see what I'm saying? So, that's why we've put such a big amount on it [250 million], and that will let them know that we mean business. We want to find out what happened in that school. And whatever we have to do, we are willing to do. Mm-hmm. You know good and well we're not going to get that kind of money. But we will get the attention to let them know we mean business. We want to know what happened in that school. And we will take it to court if that's what need be. Somebody's going to answer to what happened in that school. See, that give us subpoena power if we did that. So, you know, I mean it's all--it's all about finding out the truth.

ADINA: Why are you suing the parents?

VONDA: Because they should have known what their kids was doing in that house.

MICHAEL: They should have know what their kids was doing.

VONDA: They should have known that their kids was making bombs. I mean, I went on the Montel Williams show, and there was a lady, her and her son came on the show. Her son went to Columbine. And she lived a few houses down from the--I don't know if it was the Klebolds or the Harrises, I don't know which one, but it was one of them. And she actually got on the show and said she heard glass breaking, sawing, hammering. I mean, she heard all kinds--and she said it wasn't right. So, if she heard it, then how many other people heard that? And the audience was asking her, "Well why didn't you call the police?" Well, she did not know what they were doing down there, you know. She can't lean out of her house and say "Hey, what are you doing down there?" So, I think the parents should have known. It's no telling how many people know what they were doing in there.

MICHAEL: We even heard that one of the dads helped one of the kids disarm one of the bombs, and put it in the closet.

VONDA: Uh-huh. That was in a magazine. I don't know what magazine, but one of the parents helped their son disarm it and put it back in the closet.

ADINA: So they knew it was there?

VONDA: They knew, someone knew. But they were just too-- I don't know if they were scared of their kids. It seemed like they were so frightened of their kids, that it was easier to keep quiet. And I understand you can't watch your kids 24 hours a day, but you should know some things that they're doing, you know? If they were building these bombs, where was the parents parking their car? I mean, did the kids let them in their garage, or it just sounds real strange.

MICHAEL: There's a lot of unanswered questions. Let's just go and call an apple an apple and an orange an orange. See, they been trying to cover this thing up for a year and a half, see? And we ain't going to let them cover it up, because we had a part in that thing right there. We had something taken away from us that will never be back. And we are going to, we are going to fight and, and we are going to do what we have to do to come to the truth, because how are we going to heal? I mean, you can't heal if you going to put a band-aid on it and not put, uh, uh, some kind of bacterialcide on it, or you know something to fight the germs or something that will kill the, the impurity in that wound. Now, how you going to do anything, how you going to heal from that? And that's the way I feel. I feel like there's a, uh, it's cancer going on around. And that's exactly how that situation is being treated. There's things not being said, you know, that need to be said. There's things being covered up that didn't need to be covered up, you see what I'm saying? So, that's what I'm talking about.