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The Silence of Columbine

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Peoples Academy, Morrisville, Vermont, 1973 to 1979.

Many years back, Meredith Vieira claimed that most of us get over bullying. Well, that 's not exactly true, though many of us try to make the best lemonade we can. And did she mean emotional or physical, and does it really matter? You could say I 'm about to rant. I say with a purpose.

How many bullied children have fantasized, for brief and fleeting moments, about something horrible happening to their bullies through a terrible accident, the bully 's victim nowhere in sight? As landmark as Janis Ian 's song At Seventeen was, it 's only part of passage. And if a boy does like a girl, even calling her on the phone, the next day 's sweetness of a brief and fleeting bragging right gives way to the ostracism and torment so familiar. It never gets far away. Never leaves for long.

Efforts to explain why I was (so) different, why my "behavior " was foreign to the popular and/or common trend, became the catalyst for what is now commonly known as duct tape. New York and Vermont have long been deemed separate planets by each other, the inequality of which is evident in reactions to one another. Vermonters hate New Yorkers and New Yorkers see Vermont in the mountain-airy light that 's best left out of the can with the "Green Mountain " label. The culture of the Morrisvillian teen of the mid-to-late seventies stretched the enabling powers of the bullied and shunned to survive with the help of angels. Neither was likely to succeed alone, nor was fantasy. How fitting it is for one of the most intelligently-run mental hospitals in the United States to be located in Vermont.

How many bullied children couldn 't speak, their efforts silenced in thought? I refuse to believe that I 'm the only one who fantasized about injury inflicted second-hand on my bullies. At the age of 13, I learned how to fire a rifle, but it wasn 't for hunting, or owning a gun to keep handy or inflicting injury. It was part of a summer camp curriculum. That was the last time I touched a real gun.

Drugs didn 't pull me through. I didn 't use them. Most of the alcohol poured was wasted when I dumped it into the sink. The act of pouring it, for some reason, helped. Not drinking it ...triumphant, though this isn 't to say I went alcohol-free through high school. What helped were blades of grass.

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I picked them apart till I learned as much as I possibly could ...and then kept going. If it wasn 't a blade of grass, it was an eventually-broken string of intervals in the lunchroom with fellow misread "misfits ", a poem that hung in our kitchen, Nancy Drew (over and over again), a really cool family friend named Charlotte and the comfort of yarn. Holding the crown as the best potholder-weaver, though it tore up my hands, was gratifying, as was being a family-acclaimed omelet-maker and dancer.

Gentle and often simple were the temporary remedies that softened the relentless, emotional blows, even torture, inflicted by school time bullies, and, yet, signs of an ever-deepening depression. Taking comfort in what might otherwise be considered boring was, in reality, temporary peace, peace I was allowed to produce within, peace many other victims may feel too exhausted to find or invent, but also a time to realize serious trouble in progress within.

Operating on many winds that kicked in in a strived-for synchronicity never really achieved, high school became numerous expanding increments of suicidal tendencies. I find it almost amusing how absent from their memories the inflicting of emotional pain has been in the minds of some of the people who wonder why I 've passed on attending high school reunions.

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My return to Columbine is doubtful. And reunions at the actual Columbine, too, may have ceased, for reasons I can only surmise. As my voice and heart go out to all victims of bullying, the spirit urges their avoidance of internal or external destruction. More schools have discovered the importance of counseling against bullying since Columbine 's horror. Yesterday, we had to resolve these problems on our own, yet, there was, miraculously, no rampant bloodshed. After Columbine, zero-tolerance got out-of-hand. If a middle ground has, indeed, been found, it must be nurtured. How many more people have to live through it?

By Rachel Gladstone-Gelman
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Rachel emigrated to Canada in the summer of 2006.- She has an M.A. in Teaching ESOL, and her poetry, short stories and articles have appeared in print and online. Rachel is a member of Fair Vote Canada.

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