Mike Kirklin

Columbine father

Video transcript

My name's Mike Kirklin, my son Lance Kirklin was shot at Columbine.

Lance was shot five times, four times with a 9-millimeter. One time with a 12-gauge shotgun right in the face.

He’s my hero in so many ways. I watched him… when they told me he'd be in I.C.U. for 120 days, and when they came out four hours after he had been shot and said, ‘He's been shot twice,’ then they came back another hour, ‘He’s been shot four times,’ then they came back and told me he'd been shot in the face with a shotgun. When you've shot a shotgun, you know what that kind of damage - I didn't think he'd ever make it, and just his willpower and his will to live.

Emotional impact of school shootings

20 years later and here we are, and it's changed my world completely, because of the way that I react when there's a shooting on television. Sometimes I can look at it and it doesn't really bother me, but other times it'll be a week of me crying and it-- you feel so bad for all the other people that are going to have to go through-- all of the things they're going to have to go through.

I was so fortunate my son lived, but it affects you more than you think it's going to. Once the surgeries and health part of it's all gone then you have to deal with seeing it on television happen again - that you know this isn’t going to just stop.

Helping his son recover

It changed my life in every way because I had to completely shut down my tree company and become a nurse in a lot of ways and a caregiver to my son to take him to all… and we had 23 surgeries in the next two years.

At the time I was a raging alcoholic and so I was trying not to drink, but I was trying to get through it. And I'm sure I would’ve done it differently, but I got through it all. I felt like I was doing the best I could.

I think I was too busy with taking care of Lance and everything for a while. After Lance was healthy and moved out, then definitely I think my alcoholism got worse. I had every reason in the world to drink. I had a… my other 16-year-old son, five and a half months before Columbine, committed suicide. I feel like that-- it just felt like everything that could have gone wrong in my life did.

It hurts, all of this stuff hurts. So, you want to get away from it, there isn't walking away from it you can't do that, but you move on you know you gotta keep going and life will get better.

Long-term impacts

The mental part for me-- my son was easy to be able to say, ‘I'm okay.’ And I thought I was okay too. As the years gone by I've noticed it's just sometimes... sometimes it's a lot harder to deal with. I still deal with it and I know I will for the rest of my life. This isn't something that goes away.

Nothing is going to ever be normal again, though. I feel like when you are involved in a shooting, and that can be the grandparent, that can be the victim (the victim obviously goes through the most) but that doesn't mean that we don't on the outside circle go through it. I can't describe what how it's going to affect different people. I've said before I'm very sensitive, so it affects me a lot and I…I have to know that it's okay to cry. It's okay to get angry, but don't focus on the anger.

It's not because we have guns in the world. It's because people are going to do bad things, there's evil in the world.

His life today

I'm not working now, and I just thought that I would be farther ahead, I guess.

I couldn't be more content in my life. I am so very blessed to have Stacey in my life and to be where I'm at, you know to be sober and to enjoy life again. I can do that. You know I was very blessed to have Lance live and do as well as he has, so I feel very lucky to be where I’m at.

I'd just like us to kind of get back to normal and to be able to watch games together, to go hunting together, and to do things like that… that's what I'd like. To have a family reunion and to have my son and my daughter and their kids and all of us to have Christmas and Thanksgiving.

I'm not going to ever heal. That wound is gonna always be a little open for me. I mean it's gonna always bother me that my son got shot.

Mike Kirklin is Lance Kirklin’s father. Lance suffered five gunshot wounds, including a devastating blast to the face. Mike said he was a “raging alcoholic” during Lance’s recovery, which put stress on their relationship.