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June 14, 2013

I Survived

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Photo Credit: Peter Hapak

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CRYSTAL WOODMAN MILLER, 30
Littleton, Colorado

April 20, 1999

Miller was studying for a test at Columbine High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ambushed the school. Twelve students and one teacher were killed, and 24 were injured.

During lunch, I convinced my friend Seth and his sister to go to the library to study. We were there five minutes when we heard popping sounds. A teacher screamed, "There are boys with guns! Hide!" We slid under the table. Then we heard glass breaking—and a scary voice: "This is for all of you who made fun of us!" They'd shoot someone and holler, "Who wants to die next?" Then one said from across the room, "You in the white hat." Seth pulled his cap off, and I braced for the bullet. It never came. Minutes later, they ran out of bullets and left.

Seth said, "Run!" I remember stepping over dead bodies as we fled to safety.

I walked out without a scratch but knew life would never be the same. In the days after the shooting, I thought those who died were the lucky ones. At night, I heard the shooters' voices. It took months before I could smile. When I did, I felt guilty.

That year, Samaritan's Purse, a humanitarian group, invited me to Kosovo to hand out Christmas presents to children who survived the war. The city reminded me of the library: burned out and pockmarked with bullets. It was the first of many similar trips. The connection I felt with other survivors inspired me to become a full-time speaker. I'm also working on a documentary film called Columbine Everywhere, which includes my story and those of other survivors.

What happened that day shook me to my core. But I know now that my world cannot be shattered by anything. I'm not defined by those seven minutes in the library. I'm defined by how I have chosen to live my life. @crystalwmiller


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