A Simple Vision

Matt Varney, Columbine Senior
Columbine High School Memorial — April 20, 2000

As students of Columbine High School, we returned to the 1999/2000 school year anxious and ready for what it would bring. I am just one of 2000 students who can tell the story of a school year which has presented our faculty and student body with new surroundings, new friendships, and a unique opportunity to begin healing the wounds from a year ago.

However, it is important for us all to remember that healing is not an event, but a process…a process that requires us to respect the fact that _ even one year later _ we are all in very different places… personally. The healing process is not the same for everyone… It is not predictable; it cannot be rushed or forced. The loss we have experienced and felt cannot be fixed or explained, but it can be shared, and that why we have gathered here today… To join our hearts in this unpredictable journey and remember some very special people who were taken from us, and be reminded that life is a wonderful gift to never be taken lightly.

After April 20th the importance of healing was initially hard to grasp. How do you respond to such a terrible tragedy? One step for us as a student body was to simply focus on the present and future while being sensitive to the past. It has been a significant challenge and a struggle. However, there have been at least three sources that have enabled us to engage in this healing process.

A first source of healing has been our friends and our faculty. Opportunities to comfort and be comforted have made the healing process so much more bearable and profoundly meaningful. Why is it that we seldom appreciate the true impact another makes on our lives until tragedy strikes? After the tragedy, it seemed more important to us all not to take our friendships for granted. I think many of us have learned a great deal this year about friendship and about what it means to be a true friend.

Another source of healing for us has been our families and community. It was amazing to watch how people came together to serve and support one another, The loving bond of family and community seemed to shine brighter than ever before. I can’t even begin to imagine what parents felt that day when their child didn’t get off a bus. The loving support of family and community cannot erase the pain of such loss, but I believe we all witnessed and experienced how they can encourage us to persevere and continue on with grace and dignity, Thank you. Thank you so much for your support. You shared our pain and our tears. In a time of crisis it is those that comfort you, love you, and listen to you that become the most important part of healing.

A third related source of our healing has been communication. The stories we told helped us to see what we had experienced. Stories helped us to articulate our new understandings. Being able to share our stories and open up our hearts and minds, is what keeps many of us going.

I would like to thank all of those who have set down with someone from Columbine and listened to his story. You must know that when you Invite us to tell our stories, you help us embrace the present and move Into the future with a renewed hope and purpose. Thank you.

Our hope for the future will not be found in our efforts to secure a reason for the tragedy. We need a hope that is rooted in a more realistic vision that is not bound to the question of “why?”, but to the question of “how?”… How can we make this loss meaningful? One way is through simple acts of kindness. This vision is a matter of the heart, and it begins with me as an individual. Each and every one of us must stop and listen to our own heart, and with courage and humility acknowledge our own failure to relate responsibly. The path beyond violence is not paved with prejudice and power but with personal sensitivity and courage.

Students, while walking through the halls of your school don’t underestimate the importance of a simple “hi” to those you do not know very well. It can make that person’s day.

Teachers and all school staff, it is important to establish relationships not only with those students who are easy to get along with, but also with those who are difficult to relate to. Talk to them, be nice to them, and remember the power of having someone believe in you.

Parents, listen to your kids. Know how they feel. Learn about their special gifts, their passions in life, and most importantly, love them for who they are, not for who you want them to be. A vision of kindness cannot be forced or legislated because it is first and foremost a matter of the heart.

On this Anniversary day, don’t forget to remember. It is in the act of remembering that we give dignity to our suffering. Remember those who lost their lives and those who were injured. Take a moment also to think about how you, as an individual, can make a difference. It all begins with simple acts of kindness.

To our community, to people around the country and around the world… We would like to say a heart_felt thank you. Your simple acts of kindness… your cards, your gifts, your love and prayers have encouraged us to move forward with hope and compassion. Your loving support has allowed us not to seek after a painless life, but to live so that our pain might have meaning.

Don’t forget to remember the past and cherish today as a gift from God.

Thank you….

NOTE: I think this is from the memorial service on April 20, 2000 but I am not sure. When I first posted this speech and while Matt Varney was in college, I spoke with his father, who gave me permission to use this speech.


Varney, Matt. “A Simple Vision,” _SpiritOfColumbine_ http://www.spiritofcolumbine.org/chspirit/varney.html