On April 20, 1999, Laura Farber was in the cafeteria at Columbine High School when the shots broke out.
Almost 20 years later, Farber returned to the school for the first time since graduating to film the documentary, "We Are Columbine." The film makes its Colorado debut this weekend at the Denver Film Festival.
In the documentary, four survivors retrace their steps from that day inside the school. In 1999, they were all freshmen students — including Farber. The four survivors said they only agreed to be interviewed because it was Farber behind the camera.
In the process of making "We Are Columbine," Farber told Colorado Matters she remembered forgotten details from that day and was able to reclaim the story she thought had been taken away from her and other classmates.
On being able to reclaim the story for her and her classmates:
"I just wanted to follow up on a really personal story, that I felt was told by other people, everyone except for us. It’s also a partial love letter to the Columbine community. In a way, to hopefully help at a time what I thought would be future survivors, not knowing that mass shootings would explode the way they have."
On processing trauma years after the shooting:
"I moved out of state right after graduation and didn’t really come back at all to visit until I started working on the film. I didn’t know how everyone was doing, and I was wondering how are we all healing, what are we going through.
The effect is crazy. I think events in your life, especially traumatic events, can sort of guide you to where you’re gonna go in life.
It makes your personal healing difficult when you’re trying to wrap your head around and digest how you’re supposed to be feeling. It’s whatever it is for you."
On the "We Are Columbine" chant, the namesake for the film:
"That came from a chant that we had. The Columbine chant started before the shooting happened. That was something we always did at assembles. It got the entire student body energized.
I wanted people to know that we were a close group from freshmen to seniors. We stick together.
Always right after these school shootings there seems to be this pattern, this question of why did it happen. I don’t know if you can answer that right away. That’s a rumor I wanted to squash. I would not say there wasn’t any bullying, I know there’s bullying everywhere and in a lot of high schools. As a community I don’t think we were ready for that accusation (of bullying)."
On bringing the film to Colorado:
"I’m definitely super excited to have the film home, back in Colorado where it’s supposed to be and who I made the film for. But yes I’m definitely nervous. Anytime you show your work to an audience it’s always a little nerve wracking. Really I just want anyone who is familiar to Columbine or knows Columbine or went to Columbine, I really tried my best to stay true to what we remember and what we experienced that day.
As a survivor and an alumni I kind of knew what not to show, what not do. I don’t think that showing the stuff that anyone on YouTube can go and research would be helpful or beneficial. I blurred the people’s faces for privacy, and I promised I wouldn’t show any CCTV footage from inside the school."
Responses edited and condensed for clarity.