For many of the people of Jefferson County, we are all still Columbine.
For a teacher, no more teaching
Long has found some peace mowing the greens of Homestead Golf Course. It is, in part, an antidote to what he witnessed on April 20. He had taught at Columbine for 27 years – all but two of his career. But a year after the shootings, he stopped teaching. "It just didn't feel right to me," he says.
There was a sense of culpability, he adds, because the shootings "happened on our watch."
Long had reached 30 years in the classroom when he retired – the threshold that allows him to collect 75 percent of his salary. But the milestone had little to do with this decision, he says.
"I don't know how good a job I did that last year, either," Long adds.
He knew killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. He had taught them computers when they were "wide-eyed freshmen" but later saw another side to each boy when they got busted for stealing school locker combinations. Yet when Long watched Eric and Dylan the day of the shootings, he saw something he can only characterize as evil. "That's the only way I think I can describe Eric and Dylan's actions," he says.
In the days that followed, however, he also witnessed something equally as powerful in meetings with fellow faculty members: call it compassion. "There's a certain force that the human nature can also use to deal with those situations," says Long, who still lives in the area. "I found that very powerful. Just as powerful...."