9 Columbine Victims To Graduate

Friday, May 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — Columbine High senior Richard Castaldo is ready to move on.

``Man, there were a couple of good times. But I'm just glad it's over,'' said Castaldo, one of nine Columbine High seniors wounded in last year's attack who are scheduled to receive diplomas Saturday during commencement.

Classmate Pat Ireland, whose rescue from a window of the school library was shown on national television, and Anne-Marie Hochhalter, who was paralyzed as a result of her wounds, also will graduate.

Three students killed in the attack, Cassie Bernall, Corey DePooter and Rachel Scott, would have graduated this year.

The ceremony, at Fiddler's Green Amphitheater, is closed to the public at the request of students and teachers, said Jefferson County School District officials. In all, 435 students will receive degrees.

``I feel like it's a big accomplishment that I'm even able to accept my diploma because I came so close to not being here. It's a warm, fuzzy feeling I get inside,'' Hochhalter told The Denver Post.

The ceremony will mark the end of another tragic year at Columbine.

In October, Hochhalter's mother, Carla Hochhalter, asked to see a gun at a pawn shop, loaded it on the spot and used it to kill herself. Relatives said that she suffered from depression and that the massacre and her daughter's grave injuries were more than she could handle.

In February, Nicholas Kunselman, 15, and his girlfriend, Stephanie Hart Grizzell, 16, were shot to death in a sandwich shop near the school. The case remains unsolved.

Just a week after marking the first anniversary of the attack, Columbine basketball star Greg Barnes hanged himself. Barnes had witnessed the fatal shooting of teacher Dave Sanders and lost a friend, Matthew Kechter, in the school rampage that left 15 dead, including the two student gunmen.

In a statement, parents Mark and Judy Barnes said their son was depressed by the end of basketball season and the anniversary of the bloodbath.

``Please make every effort to reach out through family, friends or counsel to release and seek to heal any deep underlying feelings,'' they said. ``No teen-ager should ever have to witness the level of destruction and distress that Greg was exposed to.

``This community doesn't need any more. This community doesn't need any more Columbine victims — we have all suffered enough.''