Thursday, June 28, 2007

Columbine Kid - Orange County, California

Columbine survivor forgives
Hit 8 times in 1999 shooting rampage, Mark Taylor, 24, now lives in homeless shelter in Buena Park.
BUENA PARK – Mark Taylor still bears scars – on his body and in his mind – of April 20, 1999.

Taylor was eating lunch in an outside area near the Columbine High School cafeteria when the Jefferson County, Colo., campus became a war zone.

Taylor, now 24, was shot eight times by students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who went on a shooting rampage that lasted 16 minutes.

Those wounds forever changed the lives of Taylor and his mother, Donna. Today, Taylor and his mother live in Southern Baptist Church's homeless shelter in Buena Park. All the family's energy – and scarce resources – have been spent speaking out about the Columbine tragedy.

"It was right when we said a prayer when the whole thing happened," says Taylor, his hands trembling. "When you get shot, you remember everything."

Last month, he released a book, "I Asked, God Answered: A Columbine Miracle." The 55-page book sells for $7.99 on

Taylor realizes the book isn't going to make a lot of money, but says it was something he had to do: "(This is) for the victims and their healing process. It's about forgiveness. That's what helped me get through it.

Tragedy, aftermath

Harris and Klebold, clad in black trench coats, killed 13 people, beginning at 11:19 a.m. Another 21 people were injured. Shortly after noon, they took their own lives.

For the assault, they were equipped with 20-pound propane bombs and pipe bombs, which failed to explode. They had ammunition strapped to their bodies, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

Taylor, who was hit in chest and legs, spent two months in a hospital with tubes attached to his body. He returned home, where he was under the care of a nurse. He never got a diploma from Columbine.

He remembers the medical staff at the hospital discussing his condition: They called him the dead kid talking.

In time, most of the physical problems healed, Taylor says – aside from chronic back pain that hinders his ability to work.

The emotional pain also lingers. Both Taylors have vowed not to use medication to help cope with the trauma, blaming the gunmen's use of drugs for the rampage. Instead, they relied on prayer.

Taylor's father left the family four years ago, saying he could not deal with the constant reminders of the incident, according to Donna Taylor, 58.

To make ends meet, Mark Taylor accepted occasional speaking engagements around the country. Sometimes he was paid; sometimes he wasn't.

"It's been a tough spot for me," Donna Taylor says. "It's a total nightmare. … I never thought we'd have to go through this."

Faith prevails

During a speaking engagement, the Taylors met Dr. Wiley Drake, pastor at Buena Park's Southern Baptist Church. Drake and Donna Taylor stayed in touch.

"I was kind of a pastor from afar," says Drake, who welcomed the family into the shelter two weeks ago. He offered to let them stay until they bounced back.

Mark Taylor says his life had been turned upside-down by the rampage. He doesn't know what the future holds, but he does know that he wants to help his fellow classmates and others affected by the Columbine massacre.

"I think forgiveness is a big step toward moving on," says Taylor, who is considering a life in the ministry. "Just helping some else heal is all I need."




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