Nelson Harvey
Post Independent Contributor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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April 22, 2013
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Speeches to focus on coping with tragedy

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - You don't choose tragedy, but you can choose your response.

More than six years after his daughter was killed in a school shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, that's the message John-Michael Keyes will bring to Glenwood Springs tonight.

And more than 13 years after two armed shooters stormed Columbine High School, killing 13 people and wounding 24, former Columbine student Samuel Granillo will tell the same crowd in Glenwood Springs that it can sometimes take years for the effects of a tragedy to surface.

On Monday, the two men will deliver the keynote speeches kicking off a weeklong observance of crime victim's rights, organized by the Two Rivers Coalition for Victim Advocacy.

The events are meant to highlight the challenges faced by crime victims, and the rights they have in seeking justice and treatment after trauma.

Keyes is co-founder of the "I Love U Guys" Foundation, which advocates for improvements in school safety, while Granillo is a Denver-based filmmaker whose long-term documentary project, "Wounded Minds," chronicles the ongoing struggles faced by survivors of the Columbine massacre.

The "I Love U Guys" Foundation derives its name from the final text message the Keyes' daughter Emily sent to her parents before she was killed. That message has been a motivator for the family as they've fought for school safety improvements since 2006.

"What we do today is a key component in honoring Emily's life," said Keyes in a recent phone interview.

Perhaps the Keyes' most notable achievement is developing the "Standard Response Protocol," a common language used by law enforcement, students and school employees in responding to a school security threat.

The system is based on four actions - lockout, lockdown, evacuate and shelter - that are followed by directives aimed at securing students' safety.

"When we realized that there wasn't a common language between students, staff and first responders, we figured we can help there," Keyes said.

"As a third party, we're in a position where we can talk to several school districts or law enforcement agencies about adopting the protocol."

To date, Keyes said, the system has been adopted by perhaps 5,000 schools nationwide.

As the death toll from school shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut late last year continues to grow, so does interest in the Keyes' response system.

In the months after the Columbine shooting, financial aid for victims and their families poured in from around the world. Much of it went toward psychological counseling for survivors.

Samuel Granillo was a 17-year-old student eating lunch in the school cafeteria when the shooting started. Yet he opted out of counseling at the time, and tried his best to proceed with normal life.

"A big wall popped up in the beginning, and I tried to block out everything," he said. "It was so numbing when it happened. Once all of that calmed down, that's when the problems and issues started coming through."

Years after the event, Granillo began having recurring nightmares - chase dreams in which he was endlessly pursued by a mysterious attacker. Figuring they were linked to his Columbine experience, he tried to seek counseling with money left over for victims of the shooting, but there was none.

"This was probably 10 years down the road when I decided to try to get help, and it was impossible to find," he said. "I started reaching out to friends [affected by the shooting] and they weren't able to find help either."

Granillo decided to chronicle the struggles of Columbine survivors in a documentary film. As a fellow survivor, he says he's been able to go deeper than other filmmakers to expose the lasting effects of the event.

"What's unique about a lot of the interviews that I'm doing is that I can pull out things that no one else has been able to, because I have the same story," he said.

The film is a long-term project, and Granillo said he hopes to have it finished within two years. He hopes the film inspires some sort of government program to fund long-term counseling for crime victims, but he said that at least it should help fellow survivors open up and talk to each other.

"The help that we need the most is within each other, and people who have experienced something similar to what we've been through," he said. "That is limitless and free."

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 22, 2013 08:37PM Published Apr 22, 2013 12:55AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.