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Mothers who survived the Columbine shooting as teenagers are always afraid to send their children to school

Missy Mendo was a freshman and Amy Over was a senior when the 1999 Columbine High School shooting took the lives of thirteen people



<p>Thanks to Missy Mendo;Amy Over </p>
<p> Missy Mendo (left) and Amy Over in 2024.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/XcGiUgHKtA6RwtfPEOgX_A–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com /en/people_218/f6e73ff15187b9e0eb1ac546e8c0c641″/></p>
<p>Thanks to Missy Mendo;Amy Over </p>
<p> Missy Mendo (left) and Amy Over in 2024.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/XcGiUgHKtA6RwtfPEOgX_A–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com /en/people_218/f6e73ff15187b9e0eb1ac546e8c0c641″ class=”caas-img”/><button class=

Thanks to Missy Mendo; Amy Over

Missy Mendo (left) and Amy Over in 2024.

For two survivors of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, the painful memories never go away.

Twenty-five years ago today, April 20, 1999, two armed teenagers opened fire in the school where 14-year-old Missy Mendo was a freshman and 18-year-old Amy Over was a senior. The shooting claimed the lives of 12 students and a teacher, and injured 24 others. At the time, it was the deadliest school shooting in American history.

Now mothers and both survivors struggle with the fear that comes with sending their children to school.

For Mendo, now 39, the trauma of the massacre returned when she enrolled her daughter in kindergarten in May 2022 — the same day she saw the news of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed.

“I remembered seeing how long it took for someone to come into our school,” Mendo tells PEOPLE. “Seeing that happen while I was filling out paperwork with my child was exactly what nightmares are made of.”

On the day of the Columbine shooting, Mendo was physically unharmed, but she remembered the gunmen shooting at her and several other students who had fled to a park across the street.



<p>Thanks to Missy Mendo</p>
<p> Missy Mendo at age 14 in 1999.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/EIVTbbwtqiRpp7g8fdrf6A–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTk2MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/ en/people_218/e4ffbdeac115d51b2731079d9c882a9b”/></p>
<p>Thanks to Missy Mendo</p>
<p> Missy Mendo at age 14 in 1999.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/EIVTbbwtqiRpp7g8fdrf6A–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTk2MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/ en/people_218/e4ffbdeac115d51b2731079d9c882a9b” class=”caas-img”/></p></div>
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Thanks to Missy Mendo

Missy Mendo at age 14 in 1999.

So when she became a mother and realized she would eventually have to send her now five-year-old daughter to school, she wanted to avoid projecting that fear onto her and give her a normal school experience.

Related: 25 Years Later, She’s Still Haunted by Memories of the Columbine Massacre: ‘I’ll Never Forget the Looks on People’s Faces’

“One of the things I learned through therapy was, ‘Am I afraid to send my child to school because I’m a survivor? Or am I afraid to send my child to school because every parent in America is afraid to put their children in a school system?’ Just breaking those things down in my brain really helps with processing,” Mendo says.



<p>Thanks to Missy Mendo</p>
<p> Missy Mendo in 2024″ src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/fbQndHIBa53aJJTKTr_RMw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTg4MQ–/ https://media.zenfs.com/en/people_218/441425d3d2b 3cf52c781190e153f844a” /></p>
<p>Thanks to Missy Mendo</p>
<p> Missy Mendo in 2024″ src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/fbQndHIBa53aJJTKTr_RMw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTg4MQ–/ https://media.zenfs.com/en/people_218/441425d3d2b 3cf52c781190e153f844a” class=”caas-img”/></p></div>
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Thanks to Missy Mendo

Missy Mendo in 2024

Mendo says she will talk to her daughter about what she experienced when “the time is right and the situation is appropriate.”

Related: How to talk to your kids about gun violence in the aftermath of the Uvalde Elementary School shooting

For Amy Over, now 43 and a mother of four, that conversation has already happened with her two oldest children, who went to their prom on April 19, a day before the 25th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

“I have an 11-year-old son and he’s starting to wonder what happened to me, so I think this is probably something he and I will go through together,” Over tells PEOPLE. “And he knows something bad happened to my mother when I was 18 years old. Yes, he knows, but he doesn’t know the extent of my story, while my older children know what happened to me.

Over describes her feelings about her son and daughter, both 18, attending the prom as bittersweet, considering she attended her own prom just days before the shooting. She called it a “full circle moment” and says she just wants them to have a great night.

“I just remember it being just a beautiful, happy time, just a fun night with my friends,” Over says of her own prom. “And the saddest part is that I’m just not the same girl I was 25 years ago.”



<p>Thanks to Amy Over </p>
<p> Amy Over at age 18 in 1999.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/xweUR0pjIPBgn2cbPqrAlw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTg4MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/ en/people_218/b5f5ebc6c4d7a13914cf26a81e8a509e”/></p>
<p>Thanks to Amy Over </p>
<p> Amy Over at age 18 in 1999.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/xweUR0pjIPBgn2cbPqrAlw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTg4MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/ en/people_218/b5f5ebc6c4d7a13914cf26a81e8a509e” class=”caas-img”/></p></div>
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Thanks to Amy Over

Amy Over at age 18 in 1999.

Over says she “lost her innocence” on that fateful day when she hid under a cafeteria table while shots were fired. Although she was released “relatively quickly,” she says teacher and coach Dave Sanders — who was killed in the shooting — saved the lives of many students by telling them when to run.

“I went into his classroom the morning of, gave him a hug and told him thank you,” Over tells PEOPLE. “And we just kind of hugged and I said, ‘Goodbye, coach,’ and that was the last time I talked to him. But I’m so grateful to have had that moment with him, it’s something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

In the years that followed, she struggled with her own fear of going back to school. After an emotional televised graduation ceremony where she was still grieving, Over did not use her college basketball scholarship. Instead, she later attended a local community college where she earned her associate’s degree. In 2015, she finally received her bachelor’s degree.

“I found it difficult to be in class and felt comfortable and safe, so I didn’t go to school until later in life,” she says.

Related: Students walk out of school to protest gun violence on anniversary of 1999 Columbine massacre

On the tenth anniversary of the shooting, Over had a panic attack because she was sending her daughter to school.

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“It took years for me to not have panic attacks and I had to take medication, I had to get my thoughts right because I wasn’t doing well,” Over tells PEOPLE. “It was all about my daughter going to school and her safety.”

Over credits the support of the Columbine community, her husband of 24 years, Curt Over, and other mass casualty survivors for helping her reach a point today where she feels peace and hope for the future.



<p>Thanks to Amy Over </p>
<p> Amy Over with her husband Curt Over.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/vkSO1YHuu_A0CYvW733lKA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTcyMA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/ people_218/ad555dbd075148aeb27b02d971f6ebac”/></p>
<p>Thanks to Amy Over </p>
<p> Amy Over with her husband Curt Over.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/vkSO1YHuu_A0CYvW733lKA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTcyMA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/ people_218/ad555dbd075148aeb27b02d971f6ebac” class=”caas-img”/><button class=

Thanks to Amy Over

Amy Over with her husband Curt Over.

Whether it is through Mendo’s role as outreach director for The Rebels Project, or Over’s position as founder of Survivors Path, both women now openly share their stories and work to improve the mental health and recovery of other trauma victims.

Says Over, “It’s about focusing on, ‘If you’ve been through something like this, know that you’re not alone. There are resources and there are support systems.” And I think that’s how I deal with it.”

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