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Columbine survivor recalls the day that changed her life forever

Twenty-three years after an attack on a high school in Colorado, Marjorie Erickson shares how she's still working to come to terms with what she witnessed.

On Tuesday, the community of Uvalde, Texas came together for the first funerals after last week's school shooting.

People gathered to pay respects while struggling to grasp how this horrific attack unfolded.

Twenty-three years after an attack on a high school in Colorado, one woman is sharing her story with 13News, including how she's still working to come to terms with what she witnessed.

“If you would have asked me a week ago if I would have done these interviews again, I would have said, ‘No, never again in my life, they’re too traumatic,’” 39-year-old Marjorie Erickson told 13News during a Zoom interview from her home in Colorado. 

For the past 15 years, Erickson has stayed silent about the day that changed her life forever, when she survived a mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. 

“To be honest, it’s taken two decades to deal with it,” she said.

Two decades of reliving the trauma and trying to forget the day two Columbine students shot and killed 12 of Erickson’s classmates and her keyboarding teacher, who Erickson watched bleed to death right in front of her, in a classroom on the second floor. 

“It was shocking to see him bleeding like that, to see my teacher that I loved like that. I didn’t get it,” Erickson recalled. 

In her early 20s, Erickson detailed the experience in “A Columbine Survivor’s Story,” a book based on writings from Erickson’s journals after the shooting. 

“I was still in trauma," she said. "I was in a lot of trauma back then and I hadn’t dealt with it in the way I needed to."

Now, after the mass shooting last week at Robb Elementary in Uvalde that left two teachers and 19 elementary school students dead, Erickson has decided to stay silent no more. This time, she’s speaking out about what happened to her, in large part because of her beloved 7-year-old niece. 

“I just kept picturing her possibly being one of those kids,” Erickson explained, saying what happened to the children in Uvalde parallels much of the horror she remembers from that terrible day at Columbine. 

Like the students at Robb, Erickson and her classmates waited for police to rescue them, too, hanging a sign in a window and calling 911. 

“We put a shirt outside the handle of our door, and we didn’t know if the gunmen were alive or not. We didn’t know anything that was happening and we were scared to death to do that, but we wanted the police to find us and to get us out,” she said. 

RELATED: Uvalde grieves, says goodbyes at visitations, funerals

They did, five hours later. 

“We all thought police were going to come immediately,” said Erickson. 

When the 39-year-old learned that last week it reportedly took police more than an hour to rescue students trapped in a classroom with the gunman in Uvalde, she was furious. 

RELATED: 11-year-old who survived Uvalde massacre struggles to deal in aftermath

“In 23 years, for police to not come right away after all that, after all that data, after all these copycats, and they do that, I was furious,” Erickson said. “I was so furious that they hadn’t learned from what happened to me and my classmates and now these kids had to do it too. It’s beyond words.”

So is the realization that the children who survived last week’s shooting are changed forever. 

“This is now their forever, and I am so sorry for that, and I don’t want this to be their forever and I don’t want this to be anyone else’s forever,” Erickson said, explaining that after Columbine, she dropped out of high school in her senior year and eventually earned a GED. 

“It took me 10 years to get my bachelor’s degree because of how many times I had to drop out and go back and drop out and go back, and then online school started,” Erickson recalled. 

She went on to detail other challenges she faced after the shooting. 

“There were a lot of years after Columbine I couldn’t go to a gas station because what if it got robbed? What if someone came in with a gun? I couldn’t go to an ATM, because you hear of people robbing those. I couldn’t go in a bank because of that. I couldn’t go anywhere. I was frozen in my trauma," said Erickson. 

“I saw some of my classmates get lost in addiction and trauma and many committed suicides,” Erickson added. “The saying, ‘Kids are resilient,’ I’d love to know who came up with that because that’s not true. That’s not been my experience or what I’d seen growing up.

“Kids are not supposed to deal with death like this, and they’re not supposed to see people get shot and they’re not supposed to see people bleeding like that and dead bodies. This is unreal,” she said. 

That’s why she says lawmakers need to do something now. 

“We have to come together and figure it out, because there’s an answer, because this doesn’t happen everywhere. It happens here and it’s happening all the time,” she said. 

And every time it does, Erickson said she is reminded of what that day took from her and so many others. 

“You were not the same young woman that walked out of that school that day as went in that morning, were you?” asked 13News reporter Emily Longnecker. 

“It changed my everything,” said Erickson.

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