Mandy Cooke (MC) and Paula Reed (PR)
MC: My very first year in college, Columbine was the very first page of my psychology textbook. That’s when I had that feeling of like, ‘Whoa…people in my class are going to read about this…and I lived it.’
PR: What made you decide to come back and teach at Columbine?
MC: You know, I never wanted to come back to Columbine to teach. And at the moment, I was like, ‘Well, I just want a job.’
MC: And so I went back. And…it was hard.
MC: It was – I didn’t know that it would affect me that much. In December of last year, they put us on lock down. And it was my off hour. And I didn’t have any students. I could see police coming down the street. Nobody could get in or out of the neighborhood. And I was doing okay.
I called my mom and I called my sister and I said, ‘Hey, just want to let you know there’s a lockdown. I’m in the building. We’re not quite sure what’s going on.’ And then throughout the day, it just kept getting, like, longer and longer. And I remember, all these kids were like, ‘Ms. Cooke, what’s going on?’ And I said, ‘You know, I don’t know. But fuck this person. Whoever did this to us.’ As you know, I don’t curse at school. But I was pissed off. Because I remember feeling so in the dark as a student.
MC: And so I went right back to my 16-year-old self.
MC: I walked into the social studies office and I called my sister and I said, ‘I’m not okay.’ That’s that moment…I literally brought myself back to April 20th. I was so…broken that day.
PR: You’ve built something that you wanted on top of the rubble.
MC: I weirdly feel proud…that I walk into Columbine every day. I’m doing the job that I’ve always wanted to do. And I get to teach some of the best kids in the world.