My name is Mallory Sanders.
Dave Sanders was my grandfather. He was more of a father figure to me. He was the best role model I had in my life.
Video from funeral: “Dave Sanders was my favorite grandfather. He always used to give us hugs and kisses before we went to bed.”
When the Columbine shooting happened, I was seven years old. It took me until I was about 10 to 12 years old to realize what exactly happened and how big of a tragedy this was on the entire world.
The day of the Columbine shooting, when I was at school, I remember we went on lockdown which wasn’t something that I had really experienced before… and when they finally let us all go, my mother and her cousin came and got me and they were extremely upset, sobbing uncontrollably, and I didn’t understand what was happening until we got to my grandmother’s house and were watching on the news everybody running out of the school. And my grandma pointing to the television, saying, ‘That’s him, that’s him,’ as this man was running across one of the yards at Columbine.
That’s when I realized that my grandfather worked there, and that he was in trouble, but I didn’t know exactly what – how much trouble, and what was about to happen.
I knew that he was not coming home when we got a phone call from a reporter that had told my grandmother that Dave Sanders was one of the people who had been killed and she didn’t want to believe it because we had not gotten confirmation from anyone at that point, but it had been a very long time, and at that point everyone had been taken out of the school that was alive. So we knew, once everybody was cleared out that he didn’t come home, but it wasn’t reality until we were told by a reporter.
Effects of loss on Mallory and her family
The ripple effect in my family comes in waves, as it sounds.
We have had some really hard times dealing with this throughout the years, and there are moments where we are okay, and there are moments where we are not. And no matter how many times we fall, we always manage to get back up.
Knowing that my grandpa wasn't coming back, and he was my only father figure I had in my life. I lived there for a while. So knowing that he wasn't going to come back was hard. But I didn't always show how I felt, because I wanted to be there for my family.
It took years for me to understand the balance between helping others and helping yourself as well. And I think that was a big thing that growing up I didn't know how to take care of myself. I always put myself out there to help others, and part of that may have been because of the way my grandpa died, you know? He saved so many people - ran directly toward where the gunmen were coming, and that's where he was shot. I mean, he did what he had to do and gave his life for it. And for me, I always ask myself could I do that? You know, would I have that in me? It’s is a question nobody will ever know the answer to, But I knew that I just wanted to make sure that people were okay.
I remember my mom [Coni Sanders] always being gone, like she was always having to do something, whether it be for school, work, Columbine-related things. Taking care of her mother or other family members. It was hard, and I felt - for me it was okay because she needed to. You know, that was her way of coping and doing what she needed to do to be okay. So I made sure I was there to help with my sister or to help with my grandma at times, you know I would keep her company when she was having issues and having a hard time coping with it. That was just what I felt. That was me feeling like I was doing something.
It definitely impacted me… I mean, I had seen my mom at the most emotional stages of her life that nobody would ever see behind closed doors except for me, Being as old as I was, understanding what had happened, with her being so emotionally upset, it was almost like I was trying to find out how to feel based on how she felt. Because I didn't know.
The tools of therapy definitely helped. I got to a point where I had gone to therapy so much that I could basically teach it myself, so I didn't, I had kind of let therapy go and just try to use tools that they gave me to help myself. And to help others, you know, friends of mine that were struggling… just trying to share tools that I had learned. But what really helped me was time and focusing on what I want to do and how I was going to do it.
My life was probably headed in a way different direction, and I was going to be playing basketball, I was going to be doing more sports… and I let sports go. I stopped. I had an anxiety attack at nine years old on a basketball court and that was it for me. I didn’t want to do it anymore. So I leaned more toward expressing with art and with journaling.
The ripple effect won’t ever stop, because it doesn't matter how much time passes. It doesn't matter who you've met in life. It doesn't matter… you could be sitting here eating dinner, and just enjoying your time, and suddenly it's mentioned. You're watching a program you normally watch and Columbine’s mentioned. You know, you get online and somebody’s talking about it. You eventually learn how to cope with it yourself. It's a rough road. It's not an easy road. You will fall down, you will get up if you want to… but it doesn't ever go away.
Mallory Sanders is Coni Sanders’ daughter. She was 7 years old during the attack at Columbine High School. She was so distraught by the death of her grandfather, Dave Sanders, that she created a shrine for him inside her closet as a child.