One BYU student recounts terror of Columbine, writes book


    By Michael Platt

    Hundreds of high school children ran for cover April 20, 1999, trying to find anywhere they might hide to escape the wrath of two teenagers with guns.

    Littleton, Colo., would never be the same — especially for students of Columbine High School, who witnessed the killing of one teacher and 14 of their fellow classmates.

    One BYU student has gone to great lengths to help others understand what those students were feeling, and perhaps more importantly, what they are doing to heal.

    Liz Carlston, an undergraduate student and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, experienced the trauma of Columbine firsthand, and is on her way to publishing her experiences in a book titled, “Surviving Columbine.”

    The illustrations in the book were drawn by Carlston”s younger sister Kathy, created as part of Liz Carlston”s emotional recovery from the trauma.

    Colleen Whitley, associate lecturer in the Honors Program at BYU, said, “She”s done a really good job talking about, ”This is what the school was like, this is how the experience occurred, this is what we”re doing to heal.””

    The book details Carlston”s first-hand experience. She was herded out of the school along with most of the other students after the first shots were fired. Her narrative also describes the experiences of fellow students.

    Amber Huntington hid under a table in the library where the two teenagers spent more than a half-hour of the hour-long ordeal.

    Mike Johnson was one of the first students shot. Although he was shot multiple times, none of the wounds proved fatal.

    Johnson”s mother, Kathy, was running errands during the experience. When she arrived home, a phone call told her that her son had been shot.

    Deseret Book liked the idea of publishing a book about Columbine from an LDS perspective for the five-year anniversary of the shooting.

    After editing the story and asking Carlston to add more focus to the novel, Deseret Book decided to publish the book with a first printing of 5,000 to 7,500 — enough books to qualify as a “best-seller run,” Whitney said.

    Liz Carlston signed the contract just before leaving for an LDS mission to the California Oakland Temple Mission, where she now serves. Huntington is also serving a mission.

    “Surviving Columbine” will hit bookstore shelves in mid to late March.

    “It is the story about … having to go through the healing process after the whole trauma, both physically as well as spiritually and emotionally,” said Gail Brown, publicity manager for Deseret Book. “They are open and honest about the actual event and their emotions concerning it. In the case of Mike Johnson, still not even fully recovered from it, at least physically. You could probably question whether anybody ever fully recovers emotionally anyway; they”re going to always have that impact in their memory.”

    Mike and Kathy Johnson will be in Salt Lake City for a book signing during General Conference weekend and will likely do a signing at the BYU Bookstore as well.

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