Our morning routine probably looks pretty familiar to a lot of moms.

The baby wakes up first. We change him, feed him and then we play until the toddler wakes up. My husband goes to work. The toddler jumps out of bed ready to play. I try to talk the toddler into getting dressed for school, she says no, I say yes, she screams no, she wins. We have a quick breakfast, pack up her bag and I wrestle her out of her pajamas and into her clothes. We head to school.

She loves school. Usually, she runs as fast as she can to the door and can’t shake her jacket off fast enough to get to playing. But some days – like today – instead of running ahead, she holds my hand tightly and walks next to me, two of her little strides matching my one. She says “I love you mama!” I say, “I love you soooooooooo much!” I squeeze her hand a few times. We get into school, take her jacket off, and like usual, she gives me a quick kiss and squeeze and turns to run into her classroom. But today she stops, turns around, runs back, throws her arms around my neck and says “I LOOOOVE you, Mama!!” and my heart melts. And as she lets go, it gets hard to breathe. I make myself stand up, turn around and leave before she or her teachers see me tear up. And as I make my way to the car, I panic, thinking, “Oh God. Is today the day? Is today the day that I lose her forever?”


I was a 16-year-old student at Columbine High School during the shootings on April 20, 1999.

The shootings that day left 12 students, a beloved teacher and the two shooters dead and I am now an adult who is starting to understand shootings from a whole new horrifying perspective – as a parent. So many stories from the parents of shooting victims begin with “…for some reason, I got extra time with my child that morning,” or “…for some reason we took the time to say goodbye when we left the house.” They are always a story about something out of the norm happening that becomes the last memory they will have of their child before they are shot and killed at school. And as a parent now, I find that instead of basking in the extra sweet moments my kids share with me on school mornings, those moments terrify me.


The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018 felt eerily similar to Columbine. I watched terrified students and staff flee the school. I watched the confusion as the first responders and media scrambled for details and facts, piecing together the story. And I listened to students, parents and the community try to put their heartache into words. I thought about what lay ahead of them as they… “heal.”

I’ve learned that “healing” is a lovely word that is a completely inappropriate way to describe the actual “healing” process, which, for many in the Columbine community, has included excruciating sadness as they accept the loss of a child/family member/friend, agonizing pain for injured survivors that the medical world can’t fix, debilitating fears that keep people from the places they used to love, destructive addictions… and hopelessness. That’s the part of “healing” that people don’t see in the news and that’s the part that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community will deal with on their own.

But yet, as I watch the all-too-familiar events play out, I am forced to reckon with my own experience and my own inaction. The anguish has kept so many of us silent; we have learned to accept and live with fear. Here I am, terrified for our country’s children, but hopelessness keeps rooting me in this familiar cycle of acceptance, about to turn away from the tragedy and move on to the next one. But then I hear the voices of the MSDHS students refusing to be hopeless. Refusing to accept this reality. And I’m forced to hold myself accountable.

As a survivor, what have I done over the past 19 years to change anything?

The answer is NOTHING. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know where to start. But I’m a parent now, and I know I have to start somewhere. As parents, we are quite literally putting our kids on the front lines, and they are simply not willing to be victims of our apathy, our inaction, our inability to converse or compromise, nor our fears anymore.

For me, motherhood feels like it ripped my heart wide open allowing me to feel the good and the bad so much more deeply.

And while my experience with violence was a school shooting – something that statistically is still rare – it’s hearing the stories of mothers of children of color who face higher chances of being victims of violence that is paralyzing. What must it be like fearing for your child’s safety and well-being every single day? What is it like for victims of domestic abuse who fear for their own lives but continue to put themselves in harm’s way so their children will have a roof over their heads? Or parents of children who are contemplating or have committed suicide? What is it like to feel the guilt and remorse surrounding an accidental shooting of a child? Even all of that doesn’t even begin to cover the full scope of our reality, but we – our children – can’t afford for us to ignore violence in any of its forms.

I don’t have the solution. I hear people screaming “More guns!”… “No guns!”… “Fewer guns!”… “Access to mental health services!”… “Toxic masculinity”… “Build community!”… “Hug it out!” and I suspect these are all parts of the solution. It’s probably not this or that, it’s this and that and that and that. But while I’m not sure of the solution or how to get there, I am starting somewhere. After almost 20 years, I’ve reconnected with my Columbine community to voice our support for the students who are leading us. Together, we “Marched for our Lives” in Denver. I joined Moms Demand Action. I’ve spoken to legislators. I’m becoming an informed voter. I’m taking a close look at how I treat people and what I’m modeling for my kids. I’m sharing my story.

Most of all, I’m so grateful for these students not accepting the world we’ve created for them. As a survivor and parent and human being, I vow to stand behind them and beside them as they fight to create a world they are not afraid to live in; a world they are not afraid to raise their children in.

Kristi and her husband Joe live in Denver and are parents to two beautiful babes, Nora and Mick. She works as the Executive Director of the AJL Charitable Foundation which supports youth and families in need. Her hobbies include dreaming about running, reading and sleeping for fun again someday.

Kristi Petrie
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Kristi and her husband Joe live in Denver and are parents to two beautiful babes, Nora and Mick. She works as the Executive Director of the AJL Charitable Foundation which supports youth and families in need. Her hobbies include dreaming about running, reading and sleeping for fun again someday.