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Friday, 21 April, 2000, 04:47 GMT 05:47 UK
Columbine marks tragedy
A cross for Dave Sanders, the only teacher slain at Colombine High School
Dave Sanders was the only teacher killed
Survivors and families of victims of the Columbine High School massacre have been marking the first anniversary of America's worst school shooting.

On 20 April, 1999, two armed teenagers went on a rampage in the school, killing 12 students and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves.

A year on, some 2,500 students, teachers, parents and residents gathered to remember those who died at a memorial service in Clement Park near the school in suburban Littleton, Colorado.

Mourners
Tearful mourners remembered their loved ones
After each victim's name had been read aloud to the tolling of a bell, Principal Frank DeAngelis told the crowd he had drawn strength from his memories of those who were killed.

Earlier in the day, about 1,000 people attended a private assembly at the 2000-pupil school, which was under tight security for the occasion. Separate graveside services were held at two cemeteries where some victims are buried.

"Obviously, there's a lot of crying and a lot of hugging, a lot of solemn remembering," said a schools' spokesman.

Moment's silence

Governor Bill Owens also presided over a gathering at the state Capitol in Denver to mark the anniversary.

A state-wide moment of silence began at 1121 local time (1821 GMT), the time when police were alerted that two masked gunmen were firing in the school's cafeteria and library. Mr Owens also ordered US flags be lowered to half-mast in the state at that time.


There's a lot of crying and a lot of hugging, a lot of solemn remembering

Schools' spokesman

"Today is about the angels who are watching over us, helping us to heal and helping us to remember," he told the crowd.

"We came through that tragedy with a stronger sense of community and with a resolve to ensure that the deaths of the victims will not be in vain."

In Washington, President Clinton sent a message to survivors saying that Americans "must continue to honour their memory and your courage by resolving to make America a safer place for all our children".

Classes at Columbine High itself were cancelled and attendance at the school's memorial service was optional.

In addition to the various daytime ceremonies, an evening candlelight vigil in Clement Park was also planned.

Workers erected barricades at the park on Wednesday, in preparation for thousands of mourners bringing flowers, hand-written messages and teddy bears.

Law suits

The anniversary also saw a number of lawsuits filed alleging negligence on behalf of Jefferson County sheriff officers over the shooting spree.

Columbine
Classes were cancelled at Columbine

Some 15 families of victims filed nine suits on Wednesday - one day before the statute of limitations on such suits expired.

One suit alleged that the fatal bullet that struck student Daniel Rohrbough was actually fired by a sheriff's deputy.

Another - this one filed by the family of slain teacher Dave Sanders - claimed that the sheriff's department had prevented a sharpshooter from firing at gunman Dylan Klebold, when he had a clear sight of him.

"We are confident that the claims are without any legal merit and we will defend them vigorously," a lawyer for Jefferson County said.

Other threats

Elsewhere in the country, Columbine's anniversary haunted other schools.

Threats of violence on the anniversary forced some schools to cancel classes.

Schools Closed
Hinkley High School, Colorado
Epping High School, New Hampshire
North Layton Junior High School, Utah
Encinal High School, California
All schools in Barron district, Wisconscin

A threat was made at one school just 20 miles from Columbine - Hinkley High School in Aurora, Colorado.

At Epping High School in New Hampshire, a threat that people would die was found scrawled on the school's bathroom.

Three students from Encinal High School in Alameda, California, were in custody for creating hit lists of students to be killed on Thursday.

The Columbine shooting jolted schools around the country to tighten security.

In the tragedy, Swat teams, helicopters and thousands of police officers arrived at the school initially thinking they were dealing with a hostage-taking situation.

The two killer students - Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold - had believed they would inspire a cult following among youth outcasts.

The pair, who were reported to hate blacks, Jews and gays, had apparently chosen the birthday of Adolf Hitler for the shooting.

See also:

20 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Columbine remembers
20 Apr 00 | Americas
One year after Columbine
02 Mar 00 | Americas
Aiming for the 'smart gun'
01 Mar 00 | Americas
Controlling America's gun culture
02 Mar 00 | Americas
Clinton calls gun control summit
21 Apr 99 | Americas
When children kill
21 Apr 99 | Americas
Timetable of terror
13 Dec 99 | Americas
Columbine killers' video anger
23 Oct 99 | Americas
Columbine mother commits suicide
21 Apr 99 | Americas
Timetable of terror
29 Apr 99 | Americas
Denver killings: Special report
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