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The Saddest Side Effect of Columbine

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Residents and relatives wait nearby the school in Rio de Janeiro where a man believed to be a former student opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 22 others, before taking his own life, on April 7, 2011. Initial reports said he entered the school wearing a backpack and said he was going to a conference, before opening fire in a classroom.AFP PHOTO ANTONIO SCORZA (Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents and relatives wait nearby the school in Rio de Janeiro where a man believed to be a former student opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 22 others, before taking his own life, on April 7, 2011. Initial reports said he entered the school wearing a backpack and said he was going to a conference, before opening fire in a classroom.AFP PHOTO ANTONIO SCORZA (Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti
A week from next Wednesday will be the twelfth anniversary of the shootings at Columbine. And while there have been a variety of sad side effects of the tragedy, one of the saddest happened on Thursday.

On Thursday, 11 school children were killed by a shooter in Brazil, who eventually killed himself. The shooter, 23, was confirmed to be a former student of the school.

The saddest side effect wasn’t the fact that this tragedy occurred. The saddest side effect of Columbine was our collective reaction.

Thirteen years ago, a story of 11 students being shot to death in the middle of a school in any country would have topped every newscast, and been covered throughout the world as a major headline story.

While the story wasn’t totally ignored in the United States, media of all shapes and sizes, TV, radio, and internet, didn’t treat the story with any more regard than any other story from the day.

That is not an indictment of my colleagues in the media; it is a sad reality of the state of mind of the audience. Frankly, the news of school shootings, while immensely sad and tragic, no longer shocks us.

It’s as if our society is still suffering from a case of PTSD after Columbine. It is a phenomenon that is difficult to explain.

The legacy of Columbine bears way too much of the burden of the history of school shootings. But, even though it wasn’t the very first, nor had the highest death toll, the experience of Columbine changed Colorado and the United States forever.

To be fair, Columbine also has a large number of positive legacies, including quicker and better coordinated responses to future emergencies. Many other positive elements have come out of the tragedy that have helped students for the last twelve years, and will continue to protect students for many years to come.

But, it was clear on Thursday that it’s going to take much more than twelve years for all of us to become less desensitized to school violence. Because even though the violence happened in an entirely different continent, for the story to not be on headlines and the top of newscasts in this country, says much more about the audience than the media.

It says that the audience had sadly been here before, and by now, more than a few times. And it says that the audience just simply isn’t shocked anymore.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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