Two sisters who survived the deadly Columbine shooting have run the Boston Marathon together, just days before the 20-year anniversary of the tragedy.
According to KDVR, sisters Sarah Bush and Laura Hall were 16 and 14 when they first heard an explosion ring out on the campus of Columbine High School in Colorado on April 20, 1999.
“It was probably a few minutes into the period, and we heard an explosion,” Bush, 36, who was in the lunchroom at the time, told the station. “And at that point, Coach Ortiz, our baseball coach, ran through to each room and told everybody we need to get out.”
The two huddled with dozens of other students in the choir office, and stayed there for more than four hours until they were rescued by emergency personnel, they explained. As the sisters made their way out of the building, they passed the body of a fellow student. In all, 12 of their classmates died in the massacre.
The experience was traumatic for both Hall and Bush, and one of the things they turned to for relief was an activity they could do together: running.
“Track was the highlight of my life. It gave me joy after having to go back to that school and having to endure and be in the places that gave us panic attacks,” Bush told Today. “When I look back and reflect on high school, those are the memories I cherish the most, the track experiences and running.”
She added: “When I went to the field to do track and run drills, it was kind of mindless and coaches are telling you what to do. You are kind of pushing through the pain.”
While making efforts to improve her mental health, Hall, 34, began running in 2006.
“I was 22 and it had been so many years after the shooting I just knew I couldn’t live in sadness and holding onto that experience so tightly,” she told Today. “I was a freshman during Columbine and I just feel like I was a little bit too young to realize how much help I really needed.”
With every mile ran, the sisters worked on their emotional wellbeing, and soon set a goal to run the Boston Marathon. It wasn’t until this year that both of them qualified, and on Monday, five days before the 20-year anniversary of the shooting, the two set out to run the 26.2-mile race together.
“It is this huge monumental thing we have accomplished together, not only in running but also in our mental health and our happiness and our success as individuals. It is huge,” Bush told Today.
“It is hard and scary. We are scared of normal things. You can’t be a hermit. You can’t hide away. You have to choose to be part of the world and be part of the good,” she continued.
While their emotional wounds may never fully disappear, both Hall and Bush hope to inspire the countless victims of gun violence who are still dealing with its effects.
“We believe so strongly you can find hope in your life and you can live a happy and fulfilled life,” Hall told Today. “We feel extremely blessed to share our experience because we feel like we survived and we can spread a message of encouragement.”
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