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Happy Birthday, JonBenet Ramsey

JonBenet Ramsey would have been 21 years old today. I covered this story for years for NBC News. For a time the world could not get enough of this murder mystery.  Was riding a train in Italy one day and mentioned to my seat mates that I was from Colorado. All they wanted to know is “Who killed JonBenet?” Fifteen years later we still don’t know how the little girl died during Christmas 1996 in Boulder. Hopefully someday this case will be solved. Since then, JonBenet’s mother, Patsy Ramsey died and father, John Ramsey remarried. But still no justice for JonBenet.


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Toy Story 3: A Mom Reflects

I guess it was inevitable. Andy in “Toy Story” would grow up just like little Jackie Paper in “Puff, The Magic Dragon.” To this day I cry when I hear Peter, Paul and Mary sing the song so I wasn’t surprised that I got sentimental when I saw “Toy Story 3” last night. What I wasn’t prepared for was the complete welling of emotion. I had been warned by a friend on Facebook that this was a tearjerker but I didn’t see it coming through Woody’s antics and Buzz Lightyear’s Spanish speaking tango romp. Then I became a blubbering mess. My 12 year old said I was crying louder than anyone else in the theatre. You see, in two years I’ll have my own kid heading off to college and I’m already filling with nostalgia. My baby, the one who was photographed in his diapers and cowboy boots, the one who poured flour all over himself, who cried in the closet when he missed the ball that could have won the game, then years later played on the team that won the championship, will head to college too. And like Andy’s mom in “Toy Story 3” I’m not prepared to let him go and be left standing alone in a cleared out room.

This sophomore year has been a difficult one and there have been many times I’ve wished he would grow up, but when I actually stop to consider it, like I did last night, I realize how I’m dreading this rite of passage. It occurs to me that it probably hit my parents like a load of bricks too. I was the only one in our family to go to college. My dad only completed 8th grade, my mother dropped out of nursing school to get married, and my sisters chose not to go. My father was immensely proud to have a college student but I know when he wrote the check that guaranteed my spot at the University of Colorado he had a difficult time signing his name. Everything he dreamed of and dreaded would come to pass with the misty eyed stroke of a pen. My mom took it hard too when she brought me to Boulder and I couldn’t wait to run out with my new found friends. Now as my son hurtles towards adulthood (he’s 16, has a license, a truck and his first job) and passes through the house for food and showers, I can’t help but wish I had hung on to his playthings. I wish I hadn’t been in such a rush to send them to Goodwill. They’re gone, and soon he will be too, and I’ll be missing him in a room without toys and my boy.

Kyle Ewalt

Kyle Ewalt at 22 months old

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Meeting Aron Ralston

Aron Ralston

It’s hard to wrap your head around what Aron Ralston had to do in a slot canyon in Utah in 2003.  While hiking he dislodged a boulder and his arm was pinned beneath the huge rock for six days.  To escape certain death he amputated his own arm then rappelled down a 65 foot wall and hiked eight miles before he found help.  The act of courage sent him into the stratosphere of fame and inspiration and earned him a spot on Today’s “Buzziest Stories of the Decade.”  Six years later he is married, house hunting in Boulder, Colorado and expecting a son around Valentine’s Day.  His story, which he chronicled in the book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, is the subject of an upcoming movie by “Slumdog Millionaire” director, Danny Boyle.  Ralston told NBC Today Show host, Meredith Vieira, “I especially like talking to groups about responsibility and being the author of your life.  We get to create this life, and I think that our mental mindset is a lot of what goes into that, seeing things that could have been a tragedy, and seeing them as a blessing and maximizing the opportunities that come.”

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Columbine Revisited

Has it been 10 years already?  The anniversary of the deadly shooting at Columbine High School is less than a month away and as I dive back in to the story I’m flooded with memories of that Tuesday.  I haven’t really thought about Columbine much over the last few years, except on the painful occasions when another disturbed youth goes ballistic and takes it out on his classmates.  It happened just recently in Germany.  Virginia Tech was another shocking reminder of how helpless we can be when a motivated killer has fellow students in his sight.  Now it’s time to revisit Columbine again.  With the 10th anniversary upon us I can’t help but remember that day and the many days that followed as we covered the story for NBC News. 

I was up in Boulder working on another story when all hell broke loose and we were told to get to Littleton fast.  I remember driving, writing, talking on the phone all at the same time, trying not to collide in traffic.  I didn’t know where the school was.  The roads were closed.  I parked my car a distance away and hitched a ride to where the media was gathered.  I was one of the first on the scene and we started doing live shots.  I don’t think I returned to my car for two days.  The names of the fallen still ring in my ears.  Dave Sanders, Lauren Townsend, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Schoels, Daniel Mauser, Cassie Bernall, Steve Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Rohrbough, John Tomlin, Kyle Velasquez.     

We were there with the first responders and in the early chaos it was a blur.  It wasn’t until the reinforcements arrived from NBC News (and there were so many of them who came from all over the country) that I really had time to absorb the incredible scope of the story.  For three weeks we were booking, producing, doing live reports, talking to families and friends of victims, talking to survivors of the horror, attending funerals.  Finally that first weekend I was able to breathe and took a walk at Clement Park along the memorial fence and completely fell apart.  I brought my children.  We read the notes, saw the candles, stuffed animals and flowers.  The whole world was grieving.  There was an aftermath of confusion and compassion. 

Ten years later, what have we learned?  We still hold our guns as dear as we hold our children.  Perhaps we’re better at preventing massacres but now and again some troubled teen like Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold bursts through our defenses and there is carnage again.  Andrew Robinson, a senior at Columbine on April 20, 1999, has created a movie called “April Showers.”  It is not a documentary but rather a theatrical piece about a school shooting “based on actual facts.”  You see where he got his inspiration.  So much of Columbine is recognizable.  At the end of the movie there is a scroll of all the people who have died during school shootings in the U.S.  The list is so long.  Kent State, Virginia Tech, Columbine, on and on.  Viewers watch silently.  Taking it in.

As the anniversary approaches, we are hooking up again with those we met 10 years ago.  They have all kept on going.  Pushing through the pain.  Remembering their loved ones in positive ways.  They have also done remarkable things during the journey to turn a horrible day into a teaching moment.  Darrell and Craig Scott take Rachel’s Challenge into schools so kids will learn to love each other.  Schools have worked hard to teach tolerance, empathy and become safer.  The buildings are not impenetrable but they are better.  Those whose lives were changed forever on that day are coming forward again, perhaps for the last time, to make sure no one ever forgets Columbine.  After all, there are still lessons to learn from that deadly day at school.

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