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School shooting survivors to share faith in Lafayette
By Dan McFeely
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (May 12, 1999) --
Blame the parents.
Blame who you want.
Lauren Beyer knows who is responsible for the Columbine High School massacre. "It was Satan," she said. "Satan in the flesh."
Lauren would know. She was there.
Today, she and another survivor will share their feelings, their memories -- but mostly their faith -- with students at two Lafayette area high schools. And tonight at 7, the community is invited to hear their testimony at the First Assembly of God church on the south side of Lafayette. It is there that people will learn how Lauren, 15, was enjoying lunch in the Columbine school cafeteria on April 20 when the bullets started to fly. "I saw Dave Sanders (a teacher and former Hoosier who later was killed) running through the cafeteria, yelling at us to get under the table. His face was just pale white." A minute later, Lauren joined a group of kids who found an exit. She was one of the first ones out of the building.
Her friend, Heidi Johnson, wasn't so lucky. "I was in the library," Heidi said. The library, where most of the blood was spilled that day. Heidi, a tall, thin, blonde sophomore, tried to hide under a table. "Luckily I was alone under my table," she said. "At the other tables they were crowded in. If there was a hand stuck out or a leg, they would walk by and shoot it." From her vantage point, she saw her classmate, Isaiah Shoels, shot because he was black. Then she saw one of her best friends killed after telling the gunmen that she believed in God. Then they turned toward her table. Heidi, 16, thinks one of the gunmen said something to her, but she doesn't remember what it was. Then he fired three shots. "It was like there was a shield around my table," said Heidi, who remembers one bullet hitting the table just above her head. "I was just praying the whole time. And I knew where I was going to go if I did die. That just brought so much peace to me."
As the gunmen sought out other victims , Heidi helped gather her scared and injured classmates, then rushed to an exit. And, she said, she kept up her praying, clutching her fellow students -- particularly several girls who were hysterical. "God definitely gave me strength that day," Heidi said.
In all, students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and one teacher before committing suicide. After submitting to scores of interviews -- with police, school officials and the press -- it might seem odd that Heidi and Lauren's parents agreed to let them come to Lafayette. Why not stop talking about it and try to move on? "You can't go back. You can only go forward," said Robin Beyer, Lauren's mother, who made the trip with her daughter. "This is actually good for them. We want God to use this for his glory."
The Rev. Jeff Countryman, a minister who teaches aspiring ministers at the Lafayette Masters Commission, which is based at First Assembly of God, arranged the trip after some unusual, yet divine, intervention. Three days after the shooting, Countryman said he felt God push him to gather his student-ministers and go to Colorado. That same day, a member of the church in Lafayette found out about his plan and wrote him a check for $3,000 to cover expenses. The group of 13 arrived the next Tuesday with no plans other than to help others pray. By chance, he was asked to give a sermon at Trinity Christian Center, about two miles from Columbine High School. In the audience that night was Lauren and Heidi. "We honestly did not have a plan. We did not have one contact out there," said Countryman. "God just opened up the doors."
Later that week, he helped at Isaiah Shoels' funeral. Afterward he decided to hold a Stop the Violence Rally in Lafayette, with Lauren and Heidi the featured speakers. "If just one kid hears about all the pain those two kids caused, and stops something that he has been thinking about, then it will be worth it," Countryman said.
"We've all got to get together in this. Sure, we'd like to blame this or blame that. But the truth is, they gave their hearts over to Satan." Heidi hopes to persuade kids in Lafayette -- kids everywhere -- to give their hearts to God instead. "I want them to see a different perspective on life and the way they should be living." Lauren agrees. "I want to tell them that Jesus loves them and that he is the protector. They need to put their faith in God."
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