Victims of violent crime talk about moving on
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — When John Michael Keyes and his wife, Ellen, lost their daughter Emily in 2006 in a shooting at Platte Canyon High School near Bailey, they immediately looked to how they might respond positively to their loss.
“Emily was a victim of a horrible thing but we aren’t going to be that victim family. ... You can choose your response in the face of tragedy,” Keyes said.
He and Ellen ended up creating a foundation focused on introducing a standard response protocol for schools and first responders that go through incidents like the one that cost him his daughter.
Samuel Granillo spent hours in hiding at Columbine High School during the 1999 shootings in which two fellow students killed 13 others and themselves. These days he is working on making a documentary about his experiences and those of other Columbine survivors, and about the need to provide better support for those who go through traumatic events.
The two spoke Monday night in Glenwood Springs in an event put on by the Two Rivers Coalition for Victim Advocacy in recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Their presentations served as reminders that victims of violent crimes include not just those who are killed or wounded, but their families and friends, along with survivors who may avoid physical wounds but not mental ones.
Granillo said survivor’s guilt has been one challenge for him — “feeling that what I went through isn’t good enough to talk about because I didn’t go through enough.”
Granillo spent the shootings holed up with 17 others in a tiny cafeteria office, listening to gunfire and explosions. At one point he sat on the floor with his toes wedged under the door like doorstops as someone — presumably one of the shooters — tried to get inside.
He later found himself playing the “what-if” game, thinking about the choices he made before the shooting that unknowingly affected his fate. Had he chosen to join his good friend, Rachel Scott, in eating lunch outside, would he have died as she had, or would they have sat somewhere else and both survived?
“That’s one of the things that messed with me for a long time,” he said.
The Platte Canyon incident, in which a gunman entered the school and held several female students hostage, dispelled for Keyes any notion that such incidents don’t happen “here,” but only in other places, to other people.
” ‘Not here’ is a myth because ‘not me’ is happening to somebody somewhere else all the time,” he said.
The kidnapper shot his daughter as a Jefferson County SWAT team was entering the room. But Keyes said he and his wife don’t blame the cops, as it was the “lunatic” who created the situation.
The public doesn’t always recognize law enforcement can be deeply impacted by such events and can need to recover from them as well, he said. “They saw my daughter shot in front of them and they (had) tried to do everything right,” he said